Blog Archive - August 2008
August 29, 2008
I watched the conclusion of the Democratic Convention last night and was overwhelmed with the enormity of the event – the venue and the participation of so many patriotic Americans searching for a change in leadership, economics, taxation, and foreign policy. I was impressed with Barack Obama and his speech. I generally am not a person who is “into” politics – but I do have my own set of values, opinions and dreams for America and I am searching for a presidential candidate who can match up with at least a couple of them. A big issue for me is what is called “health care reform”. Kind of a no-brainer that something has to give – the cost of healthcare is out of control and the control measures that have been implemented to date have not accomplished an effective management of costs. Americans demand more technology and lower cost and expect insurance companies to bail them out of their own bad lifestyle choices with “affordable health care”. Health insurance costs a lot because you are inevitably buying a lot. A headline in my local paper in May read like this, “ Health Insurance Premiums Soar” and the article from the Los Angeles Times described a recent study at the University of Minnesota that “did the math” and concluded that “the cost of health insurance premiums has risen 10 times faster than our incomes.” Who should pay for my health care is the big question – me personally, my employer, a spouse’s employer (if I had one), the government, my retirement fund? ….Somebody? Anybody!!
I can remember back in 1992 (?) when Bill Clinton took office and Hilary decided to tackle this issue. She was very ambitious with her inquiry into the current problem/situation. What ever happened to that initiative? I am not being sarcastic – I don’t know why it was abruptly dropped. I assumed it was even too big a project for Hilary – maybe because there was no congressional support for the endeavor. Whatever, Bill Clinton and his years in the White House compensated for this economic problem to some extent by “pumping up” the economy and getting jobs for a lot of people that gave them access to health care from their new employers. The issue was almost forgotten. But times have changed with the economy and the cost of health care has reared it’s ugly head again. Many of us employed in and through healthcare struggle, too, to provide for our own future health care needs. Our parents struggle even though they have medicare benefits, social security and long-term care insurance that will probably not even be there for us.
Well, my perspective on this global problem is pretty simplistic. I am an infection preventionist and so I think the answer lies in prevention of infection and chronic disease. But that would mean major lifestyle changes for most Americans! There is evidence now to show us that we can avoid a myriad of maladies with simple lifestyle changes: Change what we eat, what we drink, avoid smoke – first-hand and second-hand, walk more and drive less (“less dependence on foreign oil” is what the politicians call it), wash your hands, get recommended immunizations, stop depending on medications to remove self-inflicted pain and discomfort. Change your attitude about your health. Respect your body and learn how to care for it yourself. This isn’t the “change” everybody is talking about these days – but I think herein lies the answer to a lot of the economic problems we face. No president can make this kind of change – it is up to each one of us to make these needed changes and help our children to change.
August 27, 2008
Canadian health authorities are reporting a death toll of 12 people related to an outbreak of Listeria in “ready to eat” meat – bologna, turkey and ham - lunch meat. Infection with Listeria (called Listeriosis) is especially dangerous for pregnant women, newborns. the elderly and anyone with a chronic medical condition. Canadian health authorities are reporting a death toll of 12 people related to an outbreak of Listeria in “ready to eat” meat – bologna, turkey and ham - lunch meat. Infection with Listeria (called Listeriosis) is especially dangerous for pregnant women, newborns. the elderly and anyone with a chronic medical condition. Foodborne outbreaks of Listeria are quite a challenge to investigate because the incubation period (the time between ingestion of the contaminated food and the onset of symptoms) can be as long as 90 days. People can become ill up to 3 months after eating contaminated meat. To add to the problem, the contaminated meat can look, taste and smell normal so you won’t have a clue that Listeria is there and your usual “tests” will fail you (like sniffing and looking for discoloration or mold).
Symptoms of Listeriosis include fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. What can appear to be a minor flu-like illness is not usually a big deal for normal healthy adults. However, it can cause very serious disease in a pregnant mother and her unborn child and also in a baby.
The Canadian outbreak has been traced to one meat-processing plant in Toronto - Maple Leaf Foods. They have not yet determined how the contamination occurred but apparently, none of their other 22 processing plants in Canada has Listeria.
The Listeria nanobug. Listeria monocytogenes, is personified as a baby mostly because it is a tiny gram-positive rod when viewed under the microscope. And also because it causes so much trouble for pregnant moms and babies. The one-liner for this pathogenic nanobug disguised as an innocent little baby is: “I’m not a fool, I grow where it is cool”. Normally, we think that food stored in the cool environment of the refrigerator is safe. The best technique that we can employ to prevent foodborne Listeriosis is to heat processed meats to kill the nanobugs. At home that means zapping it in the microwave and in restaurants, order the hot sub sandwiches that they run through those little heat tunnels. Don’t send lunchmeat sandwiches in the kids’ lunch bag to be held at room temp all morning - bad idea – it can encourage the growth of all kinds of foodborne nanobugs.
Listeria can contaminate more than just lunch meat. Soft cheeses support the growth of Listeria in the “ripening” process and have caused outbreaks in the past.
August 25, 2008
Well, it’s over - The 2008 Olympic Games concluded last night with fabulous
closing ceremonies. It has been such an exciting and inspirational experience even for spectators. I must admit that as I watched the magnificent carefully choreographed program, I couldn’t help thinking (for a moment) about how many people they had to accommodate with toilets and food – and not just for the opening and closing ceremonies – but for 16+ days as they acclimated to the time zone and the culture. I watched almost every evening with great interest in the competition, medal counts, personal best performances and the breaking of world records. But I never heard any mention of the incidence of infection or the preparations related to infection prevention with the athletes (or the spectators). I can think of a few infection risks right off and I hope that the Olympic site preparations addressed them (cuz it is too late now, huh?). The consequences of some infections could set off pandemic (worldwide distribution of an infection) and others are just age-old annoyances.
As those thousands of people converge on one city from every corner of the planet, they bring with them their skills and athletic talents and also the microbial flora of their locale. Some could even arrive sick or incubating something they acquired en route as the result of many hours of breathing re-circulated air on a plane. It’s winter in the southern hemisphere and so colds and influenza could be in full swing in an athlete’s hometown and easily hitch a ride to Beijing. Sometimes the media reports bouts of GI upset in individual contenders. Usually it is blamed on performance anxiety or an immune system taxed jet lag or ambitious last minute training. But there is so much Norovirus thriving in the world – bringing a segment of the global population together in one place, albeit a generally healthy group, could facilitate transmission of any Norovirus harbored by a food service worker or athlete - lots of toilet use and potential for exposure.
Athletes have so much on their minds at the Olympics – infection prevention is usually not a priority thought. However, the media did report that one athlete was wearing gloves and not shaking hands and several athletes wore face masks to protect themselves from smog in Beijing.
Back in 2004 , I read about a company called Noble Fiber Technologies, in an issue of Fortune Small Business magazine. They were named as one of the top companies to watch in the future. Utilizing silver, they make fabric that is antibacterial and eliminates odors – perfect for athletic uniforms. They manufactured many of the team uniforms for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. I talked with representatives of Noble Fiber Technologies at the APIC conference in Denver in June and they said they were making uniforms for many teams competing in these 2008 Olympics. Modern technology is amazing sometimes in solving big problems and age-old annoyances like body odor in athletes.
The “locker room nanobugs”, as I call them, have so many opportunities for transmission at the Olympic Games and in the in the locker rooms, showers, pools, decks, and wrestling mats everywhere - causing trouble for the aspiring gold medalists of 2012 and beyond. I will discuss some of these nanobugs in my blogs this week.
August 20, 2008
Like you, I watched the Olympics with great interest and anticipation as Michael Phelps pulled it off -8 gold medals– making history and proving to the whole world that anything is possible. Overcoming great personal obstacles, many others are also living out their dreams in Beijing – for some, just getting to Beijing and qualifying for the competition is the realization of their dream. For others, the dream is to break a world record and/or win a medal. Even their parents and coaches are living their dream of sitting in the stands in Beijing and cheering their child on to victory. We eagerly listen to endless interviews with the athletes representing us in the 2008 Games as they share their dreams retrospectively.
On this first day of school in Lincoln, NE. I am thinking about all of the children, young adults and even older folks who are taking another step forward toward the realization of their academic dreams. My daughter, Mary Ellen, just announced that she has secured an internship with a wild life rescue operation in South Florida – close to the Everglades- and will soon be moving to Naples, Florida. This is a dream she has nurtured for quite some time.I think it is essential that we all dream dreams, share them with others, live them out and then dream the next one. This amplifies global positivity and ultimately creates a better life for everyone. All this talk of dreams and the Martha Stewart website: Dreamers into Doers, prompted me to write an essay this month – I call it Trilogy of Dreams. If you’ve got a minute….let me share it.
Trilogy of Dreams
In the afternoon of my career, I am focused upon #3 of my trilogy of dreams. Dream #1 (conceived at age 5) was to become a nurse – to serve humanity in their struggles with life, death and illness. This dream became a reality when I graduated from nursing school and became a registered nurse. My career in nursing includes a variety of stimulating jobs, roles and challenges, dotted with the birth of two daughters, geographic relocations and the blessings of a good life. My career settled into the area of hospital infection prevention and control. Dream #2 (conceived at age 15) – to be a medical missionary – was fulfilled in 1999 when I quit my job as a nurse consultant and went to Liberia, West Africa to reopen a school of nursing which had been destroyed by civil war. After that year in Africa, I became an international nurse consultant with a renewed passion for infection prevention. Out of some impatience and frustration in my attempts to control infections in hospitals, dream #3 surfaced (at age 50) and it translated into the mission of my new business, nanobugs, inc: to entertain and educate people of all ages about practical microbiology for the purpose of infection prevention. Investing all my personal resources and retirement savings into this business, I have joyously created cartoon microbes called “nanobugs” to capture the attention of people of all ages and stimulate their interest in learning about infection prevention. I have created a unique website and established an NGO in Liberia to carry out this global mission. My trilogy of dreams has fueled a career full of passion and creativity and a future that sparkles with ideas and excitement.
Nancy J. Haberstich RN MS CIC
August 18, 2008
School starts on Wednesday in Lincoln, Nebraska where I live. The shopping has already started in anticipation of needed clothing and "school supplies" - which includes everything from pencils, paper and back packs to computers and software. Parents are harping on the importance of everyone returning to the regular sleep schedule while children are in a panic to squeeze in a few more days of fun in the sun. It is all about preparing for scholastic success and social reconnections.
As we prepare for the mass movement back-to-school, I think it is important to recognize that it is not only the children, teachers and college students that will back in the classrooms and school buildings and on the football fields - but the nanobugs will be in attendance, too. A health check is indicated for students before school starts and for many, that health check will include a booster shot. CDC recommends that teens and preteens recieve booster shots for Pertussis ("whooping cough") which is caused by the nanobug, Bordetella pertussus. This is one of the favorite nanobug images among children (especially 10 year old boys) but it is NOT a pathogen anyone wants to be harboring. Bordetella pertussis spreads easily in places where people are in close contact. This includes college-bound young adults, too. Dormatories are great gathering places for nanobugs like this one. Whooping cough infection starts off with symptoms similar to the common cold ( caused by Rhinovirus) but the cough can last up to 100 days or more - really! The quote or one-liner for Bordetella pertussis is: "When I'm runnin' through your veins, you'll be coughing out your brains!" The best way to make sure your children don't get involved with this ugly pathogen (disease-producing microbe) is to make sure each one gets all the recommended doses and boosters of pertussis vaccine. (It is the "P" in DPT series that children are given in their first year of life.) It is not too late to schedule a health check with your healthcare provider. "Better late than never!"
Also, start resetting your your family's "internal clocks" - so that everyone can get adequate sleep in order to resist the nanobugs and think and perform at their best. Maybe reminding children about the importance of sleep for performance success for the Olympic atheletes would make the point. Eating properly is a big deal, too. Protein in our diet is needed in order for the body to make antibodies and white blood cells as well as to nuture brain cells for thinking. Vitamin C is an important infection-prevention nutrient which can be obtained from citrus sources (but "hold the sugar, please"). Vitamin D is an essential nutrient which can be obtained from sunlight and enriched dairy products. As you are shopping for Back-to-School, don't forget to pick up these items at the grocery or the drug store along with hand soap and hand sanitizer (especially in small portable containers). And, how about a nanobugs card collection? (available in the nanobugs website store) This unique teaching tool can help the whole family understand the strategies behind effective infection prevention. No sense spoiling a good academic year with absences related to infection. You can be......infection-free!