Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spreadin' the glove: TSA infecting U.S.?

Spreadin' the glove: TSA infecting U.S.?

Latex coverings 'have been in crotches, armpits, touching people who may be ill'

By Bob Unruh
© 2011 WorldNetDaily

Those latex gloves Transportation Security Administration agents wear while giving airline passengers those infamous full-body pat-downs apparently aren't there for the safety and security of passengers – only the TSA agents.

That's the word being discussed on dozens of online forums and postings after it was noted that the agents wear the same gloves to pat down dozens, perhaps hundreds, of passengers, not changing them even though the Centers for Disease Control in its online writings has emphasized the important of clean hands to prevent the exchange of loathsome afflictions.

"Herpes via latex glove ... ewwww," wrote one participant on the independence-minded AR15 website forum.

Responding to the question, "Does the TSA change latex gloves after each sexual assault?" another wrote on the same forum, "I seriously doubt it. Gloves are for their protection, not yours."

In fact, TSA officials in both national and regional offices declined to respond to WND inquiries about the policy for changing gloves to prevent an infection that may be on the clothes or body of one passenger during a pat-down by TSA agents from being transmitted to other passengers, including children, in line.

Martha Donahue in a commentary at Resistnet said she'd spent 30 years in the medical industry. "For those of you who fly and opt for the 'pat down,' you need to demand the TSA thugs change their gloves. I've been watching on the news how they operate. People are being searched [with] dirty gloves ... gloves that have been in crotches, armpits, touching people who may be ill, people who pick their noses. Do you want those gloves touching you?

"These thugs are protecting themselves from you. You need to be protected from them," she wrote. "In a hospital, nursing home, in-home care, or even labs, that would never even be considered an option."

ABC reported one of its news employees documented how a TSA worker reached inside her underwear.

"The woman who checked me reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around," the ABC employee said in the network's report. "It was basically worse than going to the gynecologist. It was embarrassing. It was demeaning. It was inappropriate."
Asked today about the possibility of contamination being spread from one passenger to another on the gloves of TSA agents, a spokesman for the CDC bailed.

"Please contact the Dept of Homeland Security and/or TSA on this issue," the spokesman told WND.

But in its online writings, the CDC repeatedly makes clear the importance of maintaining clean hands to avoid such transmission of communicable and contagious afflictions.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, at the time the chief of the CDC, said during a special presentation on hand cleanliness, "We know that hand hygiene is a critical component of safe and healthy health care."

At the same time, Dr. John Boyce, lead author of the organization's hand-washing guidelines and the chairman of the Hand Hygiene Task Force, said, "There's a large study that was conducted at the University of Geneva Hospital in Switzerland where they demonstrated significant improvement in the adherence of health care workers to hand hygiene practices and they also showed that the incidence of antibiotic resistance to staph infections went down and that the overall prevalence of health care-acquired infections went down ... ."

Suggested Gerberding in the context of health care, "Hand hygiene saves lives. We're recommending a comprehensive evidence-based approach in hospitals that consists of handwashing with soap and water when the goal is to remove unsightly debris; hand alcohol preps for enhancing appearance and reducing bacterial counts; and gloving when people have contact with blood or other body fluids in accordance with universal precautions."

She said even in a "community setting," "washing with soap and water remains a very sensible strategy for hand hygiene."

Other health standards across the country routinely warn against hand contact with sores, lesions or other sources of viruses or contamination. The Lincoln, Neb., health site notes, "This includes hand contact."

Officials at the Canadian Center for Occupational Health noted that "hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infections.
"You can spread certain 'germs' (a general term for microbes like viruses and bacteria) casually by touching another person. You can also catch germs when you touch contaminated objects or surfaces and then you touch your face (mouth, eyes, and nose)," it said.

In a forum on The Hill,writer Carol Felsenthal said agents should, simply in the course of their work, change gloves between passengers.

"Anyone who has visited a fast food joint, a doctor's office or a hospital has watched as workers change gloves between servings or exams. And if they don't, the customer/patient would surely say something," she wrote. "How often do the TSA agents doing the 'enhanced pat-downs' change gloves?"

She wrote that she was wondering "about the possibility of screeners passing everything from bedbugs to skin infections from one passenger to another."

She continued, "Latex glove issues might seem minor, but there ought to be procedures to require TSA screeners to don fresh gloves each time they encounter a new passenger."

On a TSA blog promoting the agency's actions and policies,one screener explained, "Changing gloves is fairly simple ... . When I gate screen I carry about 10-12 pairs in my pockets."

Respondents to the comment were outraged, "That's just plain disgusting and most certainly not acceptable ... procedures as set forth by the CDC for usage of gloves for protection," said one. "Reasoning being is that the bacteria count in your pockets is about the same is your mouth or armpit."

Wrote another forum participant, "Those gloves are soiled if they come out of your pockets and before handling my stuff you will be expected to obtain a clean, from the original container, pair.
... Who knows what filth inhabits your pockets!"

Officials at the city-owned Denver International Airport, some 20 miles northeast of downtown, said they had no participation in making any health policy regarding the gloves used by TSA screeners on Denver passengers, and, in fact, did not know if there was a policy.

On the Above Top Secret blog, the author was trying to provide a public service.

"Those gloves are worn for the protection of the agent," wrote the commentator. "You must request that they change the gloves in your presence or you risk acquiring venereal disease resulting from a fondle/molest search."


Hands Contaminated About Equally After Contact With Patient Skin, Surfaces

Usha Stiefel MD, of the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and colleagues, have demonstrated in a new study in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology that hand contamination was likely to be equal after contact with commonly examined patient skin sites and commonly touched environmental surfaces in patient rooms, and that their findings suggest that contaminated surfaces may be an important source of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) transmission.

As the researchers note, "The relative importance of environmental surfaces compared with patients’ skin as a source for contamination of the hands of healthcare workers is unclear. Because some studies suggest that acquisition of S. aureus on hands is common after contact with contaminated surfaces, we hypothesized that the frequency of MRSA acquisition and the quantity of MRSA acquired on hands is similar after contact with skin sites and environmental surfaces in the rooms of MRSA carriers."

In their two-month study at a 285-bed Veterans Affairs hospital that conducts surveillance for anterior nares carriage of MRSA for all inpatients, the researchers enrolled a sample consisting of 40 patients admitted with MRSA colonization or infection. During the study, sodium hypochlorite (5,000 ppm) was used for disinfection of rooms after discharge of MRSA patients, but "high-touch" surfaces were not cleaned on a daily basis unless they were visibly soiled.

The researchers obtained samples for gloved hand-imprint cultures from patient skin sites such as the abdomen, chest, forearm, and hand, as well as from environmental sites including the bed rail, bedside table, telephone, and call button, to compare the risk of hand contamination after contact with skin compared with the environment,
Stiefel, et al. report that the risk of any gloved-hand contamination after contact with the skin sites and the environmental surfaces was not significantly different (40 percent v ersus 45 percent ). They add that t here was also no significant difference in the mean number of colony-forming units ( CFUs ) per gloved handprint acquired after contact with skin and environmental sites . The most frequent skin and environmental sites associated with hand acquisition were the abdomen or chest and the call button, respectively. Of the skin sites, patients’ abdomen had the highest number of colonies acquired on gloved hands. Of the environmental sites, the call button had the highest number of colonies acquired by gloved hands.

The researchers write, "Our findings have several practical implications for control of MRSA. First, our findings provide support for the recommendation that healthcare workers routinely disinfect their hands after contact with inanimate objects in the immediate vicinity of patients. In our facility, healthcare workers’ compliance with hand hygiene is statistically significantly lower after contact with environmental surfaces only compared with that after contact with patients (authors’ unpublished data), suggesting that healthcare workers need education regarding the importance of the environment as a source for hand contamination. Second, because MRSA may survive for long periods on surfaces, our findings reinforce the importance of environmental disinfection after discharge of MRSA patients. Finally, it is possible that daily disinfection of high-touch surfaces in MRSA isolation rooms might reduce the level of contamination and decrease the risk for acquisition on healthcare workers’ hands."

Reference: Stiefel U, Cadnum JL, Eckstein BC, Guerrero DM, Tima MA and Donskey CJ. Contamination of Hands with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus after Contact with Environmental Surfaces and after Contact with the Skin of Colonized Patients. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiol. Vol. 32, No. 2. February 2011.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Top 5 Places to Catch the Flu | Occupational Healthcare

The Top 5 Places to Catch the Flu 

Here we are just into the opening weeks of a new year, and influenza is well into its annual assault on America. Germs aren’t hard to find this season, but where they hide might surprise you.

At the Office
We spend more than a third of our lives at the workplace. This tops our list for flu exposure. Depending on the layout of where you work, you may find yourself uncomfortably close to a sneezing, sputtering coworker. Perhaps you share a telephone with several others. Breath is heavy with moisture and creates a nice warm place for bacteria and viruses to multiply in the telephone mouthpiece. So you may be sharing more that simply a telephone.

Keyboards also get pretty germy. Our fingers are moist and a bit oily, and leave a film on the keyboard surface. This is a perfect place to grow germs. Keyboard use is a good way to both leave and pick up germs. One study found more germs on a keyboard than a toilet handle. Where is that can of Lysol?

How about that break area at the workplace. Which refrigerator gets cleaned more often, the one at home, or the one at work? Washing coffee mugs at work usually takes a quarter of the time and half the amount of soap that the same mug would get at home. Not surprisingly, they don’t get too clean and can be a source of influenza germs. Has that sponge in the break room been replaced since the company opened? Old sponges smell bad for a reason. Old magazines in the break room have been read by generations of people, few of which wash their hands. Put those same magazines in a doctor’s waiting room, and they get to heroic levels of germs rather quickly. Magazines don’t do too well in the washing machine.
DSC_3958photo © 2005 Michael | more info (via: Wylio)

At Home
We all try pretty hard to not leave used tissues lying around the house – these are the hand grenades of the germ world. Germs are sneaky and inventive in their hiding places. The remote control gets handled by many greasy hands – chips and TV anyone? The kitchen at home is cleaner than the one at work but still contains more germs than the bathroom. When is the last time you cleaned the cabinet door to the kitchen waste basket? How about the refrigerator handle? Care to guess how many germs get tracked in on your shoes from the outside?

On the Go
Start with your own car. Rarely do we risk an accident by sanitizing the steering wheel after a good sneeze. Anyone else drive your car? Public transportation in its many forms also serves as a germ reservoir. From elevators and escalators to city buses, large numbers of often sick people pass though, leaving more than a footprint. Who last pushed that elevator button? Who last used the hand rails? I need to take a break and wash my hands.

Airplanes are particularly worrisome as far as influenza virus is concerned. The air in a commercial jet is re-circulated, perhaps better put, recycled. A couple hundred people are shoulder-to-shoulder and breathing the same recycled air. The air is filtered but lots of interesting germs can be cultured right off the filter. There is not enough space to separate you from the germ factory sitting next to you, and it’s always next to you, isn’t it? The aircraft bathroom holds the record for the “germiest” of public bathrooms – all of the usual sources of germs in one-tenth the space. The interesting roaring sound the aircraft toilet makes actually can put colonic bacteria (ecoli) into the air for all to breathe.

Your Retail Life
At least they have figured out shopping cart handles and placed disinfectant wipes close by. You might wipe more than just the handle, as the last user could have had a sick child in the cart seat.

Everybody knows money is dirty, but credit cards get handled a lot more and are never cleaned. How about the keypad in the grocery line with the credit card swiper? None are cleaned on any kind of regular schedule.

The gas pump handle also sees a lot of hand traffic but no cleaning.

Finally, your cell phone is not always your best friend. Pass it to friends to make a call, show a picture or share a Facebook comment – lots of hands, no cleaning.

Although it seems tempting, I don’t recommend you actually live your life in a bunny suit. Your immune system is designed to help you survive the various insults. You can give it a big help with a yearly flu shot.
Be well, Dr. B

Flu-fighting credit card tips

Cards can carry germs, but you can be inhospitable

By Jay MacDonald

What's your best money defense against the H1N1 swine flu? 

It just might be your credit card, provided you follow these flu-fighting safety tips.
Seasonal viruses tend to spread from person to person when the germs that cause them become airborne via coughing and sneezing. When you touch a surface that contains those germs and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, those hitchhiking microbes can quickly start a block party in your body.

Money is a common carrier of seasonal germs, which thrive in warm, relatively moist locations like your purse, trousers or jacket pockets. Because it is porous and changes hands frequently, currency can easily pick up and pass on germs. Why do you think they call it filthy lucre?

Enter credit cards to the rescue!

Sure, plastic can pick up germs just as readily as cash or third graders. The difference is, you can clean your credit cards quickly and easily. And with a little diligence, yours will be the only hands to come in contact with your sanitized credit cards.

"Any surface could contribute to the passing of the virus, which typically will live up to six to eight hours after contact has been made," says Llelwyn Grant of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"We stress things like cover your nose and mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing; wash your hands as frequently as possible, mainly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaners; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because these are typically ways in which germs are spread; and stay home when you are sick," Grand says.

Here are 10 flu-fighting credit card tips for healthy shopping this winter.

1. Clean the keypads In terms of daily touches by sniffling strangers, point-of-sale terminal keypads and ATM keyboards rank right up there with doorknobs and stair rails as a Woodstock for germs. Even before you pull out your plastic, use an antibacterial wipe or tissue with alcohol-based sanitizer to de-bug the keypad or keyboard as well as your own hands and fingers before you start your transaction.
2. Swipe your own card It's fortuitous that the swipe-your-own-card movement, which initially grew out of concerns for card security, coincidentally fights germs as well. Because when you innocently hand your card to Florence the friendly checker, she will hand you back a card carrying not only her germs but unsavory hitchhikers from every debit card, credit card, bill and coin she has handled since her last break. Yuck!
"We don't have any data on the number of germs that are passed through the handling of credit cards, but there is that possibility, especially if you're dealing with an individual who is contaminated," says Llelwyn Grant of the CDC. "It could fit into that window where their contamination is high."
Don't risk it. Swipe your own card (after cleaning the keypad first) and give Flo a big smile instead.
3. Wield your own pen How times change. When once we complained that there were no pens available at the payment terminal, we now dread having to pick up that lone bacteria-bearing Bic. Solution? Carry your own pen and use it to sign your credit card slips. When confronted with a touch-screen stylus, either use your own pen with the ball point retracted or sanitize the stylus with an antibacterial wipe before use.
4. Avoid public surfaces How many times have you placed your card on a courtesy counter while you navigated the onscreen prompts at a payment terminal? Millions, right? And that's probably the number of potentially harmful germs your card picked up as a result. Consider all public surfaces suspect, especially counters and floors. Best bet for counter sanitation: Only draw your card for the big swipe.
5. Wipe after swipe Granted, the inside of a card terminal slot is a pretty mysterious place, filled with all sorts of gadgets that few of us understand. But one thing is certain: It also likely harbors bacterial residue from the countless cards that preceded yours. Clean in, dirty out. To avoid packing home other people's illnesses, wipe your card apres swipe with an alcohol-based antibacterial product. You'll earn extra public-health karma if you wipe it down both before and after your swipe.

We don't have any data on the number of germs that are passed through the handling of credit cards, but there is that possibility, especially if you're dealing with an individual who is contaminated.
-- Llelwyn Grant
6. Wallet up Frequent card users can become pretty cavalier with their credit cards, leaving them handy for convenience on dashboards, restaurant tables, bar counters and even public bathroom vanities. Anytime your card touches a public surface, millions of germs potentially make the leap from that cold, impenetrable plastic to your warm, porous hands and from there to your eyes, nose or mouth. The only time your credit card should be exposed is when you are using it. Otherwise, wallet up, both for security and hygiene.  
7. Avoid dirty money A credit card has a natural advantage over currency as a germ-fighting form of payment because it can be quickly and easily cleaned and disinfected. But if you stick your freshly cleaned card back into your wallet or pocket next to a fistful of filthy bills, it doesn't take a Louis Pasteur to figure that your clean plastic will be instantly compromised.
"Some people use a wallet that is specifically made for credit cards that separates them from your regular currency," says the CDC's Grant. "If you feel more comfortable, you should by all means do that."
8. Don't lick that card! It sounds bizarre, but some cardholders and more than a few cashiers will occasionally apply a little saliva to the magnetic stripe on a credit card to give it a better chance of being approved when swiped into a balky card reader. Ewww, but true: Licking a credit card can make it work better.  To avoid this unpleasant and potentially infectious exchange of bodily fluids, don't lick credit cards -- yours or anyone else's! Should someone lick yours, wipe it off immediately with a sanitizing product, preferably nonflavored.
9. Wash up at the mall For healthy shopping, don't wait until you return home to wash your hands. By doing so, you risk transferring the germs you acquired during your credit card transaction to things like your steering wheel, child car seats, key chain and upholstery. The CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap under the hottest water you can stand. That's about a long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself twice -- and we can't think of a better gift.
10. Shop online What's an extremely effective way to keep other people's hands off your credit cards while you shop? Duh -- shop online, of course. This flu preventive takes the worry out of being close to folks with runaway bugs -- unless of course, you're using a shared keyboard and you've got a home or office that's overrun with snifflers and sneezers. Then, be sure to keep the antibacterial wipes handy. They'll help with germs and bugs, even if they won't protect you from computer viruses.

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