Hosophobia

POSTED: 03/3/14 2:24 PM

Hosophobia is the fear of dirt or a fear of the impure. This deficiency in the human mind has resulted in the emergence of products like hand sanitizers and toilet seats that produce at the push of a button a cover for the next visitor. In general, this trend has been a boon for smart entrepreneurs who scare the living daylights out of the market with claims that their products kill 99.9 percent of all bacteria.

What those darn bacteria might do to a healthy living and breathing earthling is anybody’s guess. Hand sanitizer producers must have thought something like, let’s create the solution first and create the problem afterwards. Don’t get us wrong – cleanliness ought to second nature to everyone but there is no need to exaggerate.

We’re not the specialist here, but we learned from a reliable looking website that the human body is home to millions of bacteria. Most of them are described as “friendly” and they do no harm. Others could cause all kinds of ailments.

The British Health Protection Agency has published a number of fun facts about bacteria. Here we go: typically there are between 10,000 and 10 million bacteria on each hand. Damp hands spread 1,000 times more germs than dry hands. The number of germs on one’s fingertips double after a visit to the toilet. Bacteria 40 million years old have been extracted and successfully grown from a fossiled tree. In 1918, more people died from the influenza virus (approximately 30 million) than died in the First World War (20 million).

What the fun is of this last fact escapes us, but maybe this is an example of a British attempt at humor.

There is more: when you cough, germs can travel about three meters if you do not put your hand or a handkerchief over your nose and mouth.

Studies show that only about 70 percent of people wash their hands after using a public toilet. Bacteria double their number every 20 minutes. One student is able to create almost one million bacteria in a single school day.

We get the picture: bacteria are so much a part of our lives that it is little wonder most people don’t spend their waking ours worrying about them. You don’t see bacteria anyway, so what is the big deal? If we ever get a problem, we could always go to the doctor or to the hospital. Right?

Well, not so fast. The stethoscopes doctors use on their patients are possible playing a role in the spread of bacteria in hospitals – the place where people run the largest risk to catch an infection.

There are more bacteria on the stethoscope than there are on the hands of the doctor (or on the hands of the patient, we’d like to add).

All this is due to the fact that doctors use their stethoscope on different patients and they place the instrument directly on the bare skin.

To figure out how many bacteria were transferred this way, doctors examined 71 patients armed with a sterile stethoscope and with sterile surgical gloves. The stethoscope’s membrane – the part that is placed on patients’ skins – obviously contained the most bacteria.

Now that we know this, what is next? The doctors don’t know yet. To determine whether the stethoscope really plays a role in transferring infections requires further research.

We’d say, don’t hold your breath. Sterile stethoscope or not, what does it matter when you have a doctor who has the habit of shaking hands with her or his patients upon their arrival and departure?

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