More micro in the news

I had literally an email about yesterday’s post, in which I lamented the frankly appalling image of microbiology in the news. And it turned out that the email was sent regarding a speling errer in the post, which I thought I had, and have now, corrected.

Still, despite the lack of support from the 6000 miles…  reading public, I set out with renewed vigour yesterday in an effort to find and document a better side of my favourite branch of science in the media.

I failed.

The most recent stories I could find which involved Microbiology were this one:

which included this line:

Staphylococcus aureus, which causes a range of conditions including MRSA, was found three times more often on the surfaces of air dryers compared to paper towel dispensers during an international study.

Well, MRSA is Staphylococcus aureus, it’s not ‘a condition caused by’ Staphylococcus aureus. It’s almost as if the S and the A in MRSA stand for… ag… you get my drift.

Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect anyone?

Anyway – the upshot of this whole thing is that there are fewer bacteria that are going to kill you while you’re in hospital if people use paper towels than if they use jet air dryers.

We found multiple examples of greater bacterial contamination on surfaces, including by faecal and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, when jet air dryers rather than paper towels were in use.

Nice. [dry heave]

And remember, folks: Hand dryers also terrorise the vulnerable.

… And this one:

No issues here though, because the chances of anyone picking up a virus and transmitting it to anywhere around the world in this scenario is… oh… is actually really high. Could there be a worse place for nasty viruses to be found? This is literally how pandemics start. Or at the very least, it’s how they become pandemics.

Not great.

The image that Sky News chose to illustrate this story is interesting.

Now, I’m not someone who travels an awful lot, but I’ve done my fair share of flying, and that looks highly illegal. I’m pretty sure that whoever’s plastic security tray that is, isn’t getting their stuff back.

But then, considering that it’s now all – from their Old Spice stick deodorant to their Maybelline foundation (mmm) – covered in nasty viruses from the tray anyway, maybe not getting it back is actually quite a good thing.

Perhaps the best professional advice I can give is for you to pick your hand luggage up from the plastic security tray, and then go and immediately wash your hands in the first public loo that you can find.

Unless there’s an air dryer in there, of course.
In which case, you’re already as good as dead.

At an Airport

The Airport Lounge Scene

[Boldly and theatrically] “Ah. The wonder of travel! The thrill of flying! Destination: UNKNOWN!”

“We’re going to Port Elizabeth.”

“What?”

“Port Elizabeth. We’re flying to PE.”

“Oh. Right… Thanks.”

 

Yep. I have mastered the basic vowel sounds in order to communicate with the locals, and I Googled “donkey driving skills” for the cart we have hired.

We’ll be fine.

Right?

I can remember when

It’s not quite like that airport in Gibraltar (?) where they shut down the road because it’s halfway down the runway, but…

imageWhen they landed these little Short 360s (or anything else on this runway) at Ronaldsway Airport in the Isle of Man, they had to shut the back road through to Derbyhaven.
I learnt to drive along this road, albeit without the distraction of overhead traffic or the local Rozzers.

Paris Airport Private Transfer

Nothing better than a decent trip to the airport. Someone to carry your cases, no worries on parking, pick you up from your door, drop you at the terminal.
What’s not to like?
Many places around the world offer this service, but if you’re in Paris (as I sometimes am, and as you sometimes surely will be too) then look no further than the very reasonable Paris Shuttle to get you to OLY or CDG. [Sponsored post.]

Thoughts on Ebola screening

Having been to the UK this last week, having traveled (twice, nogal) through the global hub that is Dubai, and with Ebola knocking ISIS from the headlines at the moment, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts I had while attempting not to contract Ebola or any other virus.

Firstly, that headline thing. Yes. Ebola is the number one headline in the UK news at the moment. Mainly stories around the country’s preparation for any incoming cases and the screening at the airports. Or ‘airport’, anyway. Fly into Manchester and you’re home free – no scans, no questions asked, no nothing. Just a hint for any suicide bioterrorists there.
So yes, number one headline, despite the fact that there are no UK cases. It’s an odd way of allaying fears and avoiding hysteria and it’s cementing my opinion that Ebola is a “superstar disease”. The current outbreak is bad news, certainly, but needs to be put in context – perhaps with some sort of graphic:

causes_of_death_africa.0

The fact that it needs ringing in yellow says a lot. And yes, I realise that the Ebola thing is current and it’s acute, but still. This outbreak has killed thirty times fewer people than even “Fire, heat, and hot substances”. And let me tell you, some of those hot substances can be pretty damn deadly. But joking aside, you’re seventy times more likely to die of malnutrition than Ebola and we don’t seem to be quite as concerned with that. That’s rather sad.

But if the rest of the world is to have a reaction to Ebola and is to try and prevent its spread, then it needs to be a sensible and organised approach so as to be effective, hence my confusion at the screening being solely at Heathrow (and possibly Gatwick and bizarrely, on Eurostar trains). If you’re serious about screening passengers and keeping Ebola out of the UK (and despite the fact that it’s not a particularly effective means of determining who’s carrying the infection), then why not do it at Manchester airport as well?
There’s no point in locking your front door if you’re going to leave all your windows open.

No-one at Manchester batted an eyelid when I flew in from Dubai, even though there are excellent links from there to West Africa. Every bit as good as the ones to Heathrow.
And, with that in mind, I saw nothing – NOTHING – at Dubai about Ebola. And that place is like some terrestrial version of a Star Wars space station – what an extraordinary mix of people and nationalities. If Ebola is to get a foothold anywhere else, then it may well be through Dubai. But there’s no mention of it there at all.
Finally, Cape Town, which (amazingly? reassuringly?) had the best response of the airports I used. And that was merely an announcement asking me to “go and talk to the people at the Health Desk if I’d been to West Africa in the last few weeks”. This self-reporting with a disease which carries a stigma like an STD? It’s not exactly foolproof, is it?

I’m really not sure there is good reason for screening passengers arriving at any airport, although there are some experts who believe that there are other benefits besides the limited chance of detecting anyone carrying the virus:

Prof David Evans, a virologist at the University of Warwick, says that while testing passengers is “unlikely to detect symptomatic cases” as they arrive in this country, “the introduction of inbound passenger testing will both raise awareness and provide information that should ensure that passengers who subsequently develop symptoms can rapidly seek medical advice and, if needed, treatment.” The measures are, therefore, sensible, “primarily because they raise awareness of the disease in travellers and their contacts.”

But it also seems utterly pointless if you’re not going to do it thoroughly.

UPDATE: And, as if by magic…

What a good idea, guys…