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Did you know E.coli bacteria can reproduce a whole generation in 20 minutes?

It’s November and peak season  for winter nasties including the norovirus (the winter vomiting bug). How can you keep the bugs at bay? Hm mm well, if you’re struggling in on the Tube or bus every day and work in a crowded office it can be tricky (unless you turn Japanese and wear a mask), but on the home front there are some useful things you can do. Basically I’m referring to keeping your home clean –  I mean really clean – and that includes taps in the bathroom, toilet seats, shower screens, draining boards, dishwashers and kitchen sink plug holes, which when you hear about all the microbes multiplying at the rate of knots around your home is easier said than done.

The bacteria that bug us most

I heard Professor Mark Fielder, a microbiology expert from Kingston University, speak at a recent briefing on household cleanliness and was shocked to discover for instance that microbes from your toilet can be propelled onto  the atmosphere and land  on your toothbrush and hand towels if you forget to put the lid down when you flush!

Bacteria are tiny, single celled (or noncellular) organisms which are found everywhere. They are around one micrometre (one thousandth of a millimetre) in size but can multiply extremely quickly in the right conditions. For instance E.coli can replicate a whole generation in 20 minutes and within eight hours a single bacterium on a damp cloth can multiply to six million.

Dodgy chicken

Does it matter I hear you lazy types out there say? Aren’t we all too clean today anyway? Have you not heard of the hygiene hypothesis* you protest?(*which  by the way argues allergies are on the increase because our immune systems don’t encounter enough germs in childhood). Point taken – but apparently you can still use disinfectants and not kill those sort of useful organisms off. Unfortunately, hygiene hypothesis or not, if we don’t change our dish cloths once a week and disinfect our worktops – sooner or later we’re going to run into problems with food poisoning. In fact the World Health Organisation says that 40 per cent of all notifiable food poisoning outbreaks originate in the home. The Food Standards Agency’s Chief Scientist estimates  there are around a million cases of  food borne illnesses/ food poisoning cases resulting in 20,000 hospital admissions and 500 deaths. In the Chief Scientist’s report 2011/12 campylobacter  (a nasty microbe found in raw and undercooked poultry) is listed as one of the most common illnesses in England and Wales, responsible for an estimated 52 per cent of all cases of food poisoning. What is particularly worrying is that camplyobacter cases have risen every year since 2004, with nearly 72,000 cases reported in the UK in  2011 – clearly we aren’t getting the message about  those dodgy chopping boards.

 

Kitchen danger ( my kitchen on a good day actually)

In this era of antibacterial sprays and wipes you’d think most of us would have wised up to the dangers lurking on our kitchen surfaces – but according to a new survey by Zoflora (makers of the nation’s favourite disinfectant) just 54 per cent of us rate the kitchen as the most important place to keep clean and 27 per cent of us do not consider either their kitchen, toilet or bathroom as their top priority when cleaning. A scientific study conducted back in 1998 looked for levels of faecal coliforms (think you can guess what that they are) at 14 places split evenly between kitchens and bathrooms.It found the kitchen was more heavily contaminated than the bathroom and the toilet seat was actually the least contaminated site. The areas most heavily contaminated were the places that were moist and/or frequently touched – including the kitchen sink, bath drain areas and kitchen sink taps.

If you’ll excuse me  I’m off to disinfect my worktops……and I’m not liking the look of my keyboard much either…

PS  Feed your paranoia on this ….

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