Thursday, October 27, 2011

Do You Know Where That Hand Has Been...?

Donald Trump once said he would never shake hands with anyone, because he "didn't know where that hand has been". Ew... think about it. It's true. A study reported yesterday that the dirtiest thing people touch on an ongoing basis is the handle at the gas pump. According to the study by Kimberly Clark, "People have a 71 per cent chance of picking up a dirty pump when filling up. Mailbox handles come in at 68 per cent, escalator railings at 43 per cent, ATM buttons at 41 per cent, parking metres at 40 per cent, crosswalk buttons and vending machines at 35 per cent."

Ew...

With global travel, it's easy for microbes from one side of the globe to hitch a ride to the other side of the globe. Our immune systems may not necessarily have built up an immunity to foreign microbes, so we get sick.  I'm not a germaphone ~~ per se ~~ but I am aware when I am in a restaurant that the salt and pepper shaker or the ketchup bottle are handled throughout the day by hundreds of other people.  So, if I pick up the ketchup bottle and put ketchup on my French fries, and then pick up the fries with my bare hands and put them in my mouth, I have just created the perfect transmission for whatever is living on that ketchup bottle.

Some of the epidemiologists where I work have just completed a study on the mechanisms of contagion, and the study is going to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  For several weeks, each of us had to wear a medallion with a chip in it, and we were tracked throughout the office.  One of the medallions had an "infected" chip in it, in order to track the infection.  No one knew who the "infected" person was.  However, in our office, that study isn't necessary.  We have one or two people who always come to work sick, and almost always infect their co-workers.  The hours of manpower lost is off the chart.

How many of us are aware to wash our hands after touching bank machines, elevator buttons, debit and credit card devices, escalators, bannisters, etc.?  We go to the movies, pay for our tickets and buy a lovely, hot, buttery container of popcorn ~~ paying cash.  Then we go and sit in the movie theatre and stick our hands into the popcorn.

Ew...

It's true; when we shake hands with someone, we don't know where that hand has been.  But moreover, we don't know how many folks we will go on to infect, perhaps not getting sick ourselves.  The study of contagion fascinates me.  I can hardly wait to read our researchers' publication in JAMA.

Purell is my friend...

17 comments:

mrsnesbitt said...

never eat peanuts in a bar - chances are some chap has just been to the loo-----Get my drift? EW!

Leslie: said...

EEEEWWW Denise! But true! I always wash my hands with hot water and soap as soon as I come home from anywhere, especially grocery shopping. And again after the kids I tutor leave. But...I still get sick. The other thing to remember is to not touch your face - I heard or read that somewhere and I'm very aware of doing that now (a little itch here, a stray hair there). The whole idea of where hands have been is quite sickening, if you'll pardon the pun.

Bruce Coltin said...

I met a person who always uses hand- sanitizer before and after shaking a persons's hand. It makes perfect sense, but I can't live that way.

Shaista said...

You know there's a movie called Contagion out everywhere? With Kate Winslet?
Are you going to traumatise yourself by watching it? :)

JeannetteLS said...

I'm with Bruce, I'm afraid. And I rarely get sick. I do, however, understand why people feel as they (you) do. I was raised, though, to believe that exposure to these germs everywhere made my immune system stronger.

I do wash my hands when I get home from the grocery store, yes. But I just can't live with that much worry about every action, every contact point.

Sextant said...

No doubt about it, we live in a germy world! I have a friend that gets upset every time he visits the men's room, invariably someone leaves without washing their hands. Well I kind of figure that's life and that is why we have immune systems. Unpleasant but I am not going to get into a fist fight over it--I'll have a bloody mouth delivered by a germy fist!

But here is my b!tch with public restrooms. I would like to thoroughly wash my hands with hot water and soap before and after using the rest room--for both number 1 and number 2--although I avoid the latter except in extremely dire emergencies (which at times makes the prior-to wash problematic--best to never let things get that far, but I put up a heroic fight to the end--such is my distaste for these matters).

Anyhow my plumbing is shiny and I would like to keep it that way. However somewhere, perhaps a little published 11th commandment, there seems to be a law that all soaps, deodorants, shampoos, hair sprays, toilet paper...you name it, must have the fragrance reminiscent of a 19th century French bordello. I try to wash my damn hands with that swilly smelly crap that they call soap and then go around smelling like I visited a harlot who has a perfume line on the side. I should not speak so poorly of the harlots--a stereotype I am sure. Why the hell does hand soap in a public restroom have to stink to high heaven of some cheap sickening flowery fragrance? I would prefer washing my hands with Pine-sol. As a result, I must confess, that I wash thoroughly before and after with only hot water and it p!sses me off to no end. I refuse to sniff French cat houses for the rest of the day. OK, yeah, I know, let me tell you how I really feel! Well if I sat on the judicial bench of St Peter's gate, the s.o.b. who invented Fabreeze would have a guaranteed ticket to hell and I would join him to help stoke the fires. Another thing that p!sses me off to degrees of lunacidal ecstasy. Rent a car and the damn thing reeks of that crap and is usually somewhat filthy! I can handle filth. But Fabreeze puts me in a rage.

Returning to some semblance of sanity. I have read, not sure how true it is, that over sanitizing your home and your life can put you at risk because the immune system becomes lazy under the reduced threat level. I have also read the children that grow up on farms are healthier than city children due to the exposure of microbes from the animals. Taking such statements to their illogical conclusion would seem to argue against sewage systems and garbage collection, but not all systems run in a linear fashion to infinity. A little germs is healthier than no germs, but a lot of germs can be deadly. Again I won't vouch for either statement, just something I read somewhere.

I will vouch for the fact that for the most part I am against capital punishment unless the crime is 1) possessing a car with high intensity discharge headlights--you know the kind with the welding arcs that burn out your retinas for about three miles, 2) the use of Fabreeze 3) the use of smelly fabric softener sheets in a dryer that stink up the whole neighborhood, 4) installing smelly hand soaps in public restrooms. When I become king of the world, your retinas and your nostrils will be in a far more relaxed state. Last I checked I don't carry the percentage in the polls.

Alicia said...

Try this one. When you are in a hotel room and you pickup the remote control. What if the person in the room prior to you spent a wild night of abandoned sex? What's the first thing that person is probably likely to pick up afterwards? Yep...the remote control! I know people that take little baggies and place the remote in that and that way they don't have to touch it.

I just posted a story on my blog about Mike Rowe, World's Dirtiest Man on an episode he did for The Discovery Channels "Curiosity" show. You would not believe the creatures that live in your own body and in the foods you eat.

You can't defend yourself against everything all the time. But people who do get sick a lot at work should stay home. We have two smokers that are constantly sick and coughing and spreading germs. Plus the smokey smelling cough is pure torture...Yuk!

Smells get to me worse than germs. I have a very sensitive nose :-D

Sextant said...

Well Alicia, you jacked the commentary to a higher and racier tier. Its probably a public service that hotels only offer one channel of X rated shows. Good suggestion on the baggies!

Leslie: said...

I like the baggie idea, too. I just got home from having lunch at the White Spot, washed before and after, but when I picked up the ketchup bottle all I could think of was your comment about it. Yuck!

Katy said...

You know, I do totally get what you mean. Another really dirty thing people don't think about being germy - cash.

To me, germs are everywhere. It's just part of living in the world.

Of course I say that, and I'll be the first to die of some random infection I could have avoided through liberal use of hand sanitizer.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This is a nice companion piece to your last post. I find it fascinating, too, how germs travel, and know that I am risking disease every time I pay a bridge toll or buy gas and then eat an Altoid from a tin I keep in my car. I may have to start wearing gloves for all the activities you mentioned.

PhilipH said...

Looking back over my longish life it is rather amazing that I'm still around! Born in Jan 1935 and living in some really crummy places as a kid, eating anything that was around (sometimes found)and washing face and hands was NOT what kids enjoyed, I really should have died long ago. I've had mumps, measles, chicken pox, whooping cough and probably some other stuff that I don't recall. But, as the saying goes, it didn't do me any harm!
Nowadays, unlike Sextant, I am almost a perfume-a-phile (or whatever the term is) and I love decent EDTs, like Kouros, Clinique's 'Chemistry' - and I tend to buy my wife all her perfumes, like Estee Lauder's Youth Dew, Beautiful and Clinique's Aromatic Elixir. Maybe it is because when my poor and less than salubrious surroundings were building up my immune system I am now enjoying the aromas I never knew in the 30s and 40s.
Phew... don't overdo the cologne Phil - just a mist is quite enough!

Sextant said...

PhilipH

My wife gets migraine headaches from perfumes and colognes, so I have lived a life of buying everything in the unscented version--not always easy. New and improved often results in a scramble to find another brand with less fragrance.

Her avoidance has rubbed off on me. I don't get migraines, but any flowery scent has become objectionable. Even flowers can give her a migraine. So does eating chocolate and cheese. Bling is OK, that doesn't give her migraines.

bear said...

I have wondered about talk show host, Jay Leno. Do you think he uses hand sanitizer after shaking hands with all those people at the beginning of the show! Surely he does!

Paula Slade said...

I never go anywhere without my Purell! :-D

Smalltown RN said...

Excellent points. At work we are on a HUGE hand washing hygiene kick. Seems silly that we should have to do that being a hospital and all, but we do. It's amazing how many professionals don't wash their hands before or after patient contact.

I am becoming a germaphone I think....however I never thought about some of the things you brought up....thank goodness I don't put ketchup on my fries!

Canarybird said...

I´m not a germophobic but I cringe when I see dignitaries shaking hands in a long reception line and wonder if they duck out as soon as they can to use sanitary hand wipes. Can you imagine shaking a whole line of sweaty palms.

I think I´d be like the Queen and keep my glove on. :-)