Friday, January 18, 2008

Sanitized For Your Protection

When I was in medical school they taught us that epidemics of infectious diseases were particularly likely to break out in public institutions like schools, colleges, correctional facilities, dormitories and military barracks. When you consider all the infectious illnesses a person could catch in prison---methicillin-resistant staph or drug resistant tuberculosis or hepatitis or HIV---I guess the common cold is pretty benign. Nevertheless, I take precautions to keep from getting sick and to keep it from spreading to others.

This actually isn't as easy as it sounds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are contraband and I have to provide my own kleenexes (Puffs only, thank you, with lotion). There is soap in the bathroom, if you have a key to get into the bathroom. I keep a can of Lysol by my desk. When I see an inmate who has a partcularly nasty cold I run down the hallway spraying doorknobs and swabbing them down with tissues in the hopes that even if I don't prevent the cold completely maybe I can at least minimize the viral load a bit. I make look a bit paranoid doing it, but it seems to work. I can't remember the last time I had a cold (although my pneumonia last January was particularly nasty).

I wish all infectious agents were that easy to control within the institution. Demoralization is the most infectious agent of all, and the toughest to treat once an outbreak starts. I wish Lysol would work for that.


Anonymous said...

It is a shame that alcohol based purell thingies are not allowed. It has been shown that they are more effective than soap and water. At the hospital I work at, we have these shaving cream sanitizor....can you use them?

FooFoo5 said...

I went to "safety training" on Wednesday, & somewhere between the "use of deadly force" and "what you must do to prevent escape" was a module on "infectious disease in prisons." Notwithstanding the NY Times front page article on Valley Fever in CA prisons (which was never mentioned), there was a full 20-minute presentation on Norovirus, including a dramatic photo of how it can be contracted from the "spray" of projectile vomiting. Lovely.

For the moment, you can still carry the alcohol-gel hand disinfectants into CA prisons (despite its "drinkability" value), but they are arguing over introducing bleach to prevent MRSA. Is it possible that bleach has a "yard value?"

I had to laugh at your "Lysol" photo, as I recall a letter to JAMA detailing the investigation of how a patient/janitor turned up intoxicated daily at a VA hospital, eventually solved by someone catching him in a closet spraying an entire can of Lysol into a mug. Watch where you spray, Clink!

Sarebear said...

Eeek! More uses than one could shake a stick at.

Clink, you aren't paranoid. I've been thinking about lysoling knobs & switches more, and I posted about a touchless bathroom a while back, and some products for (a foot thingie to flush the toilet, there's a consumer faucet attachment motion sensor, there's even sensor garbage cans, and then there's the little sensor soap dispensors (even sold on QVC, act now! hee) and a bit harder to find are the sensor dispensed more like the ones in commercial bathrooms, paper to dry one's hands. or sensor air hand dryers . . . .

A bit extreme, but I think decreasing just one touchpoint in the bathroom, would ease up the number of sick time.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I don't shake hands with people who are actively ill and I avoid being sneezed, coughed, or projectile vomited upon--(and I don't charge people who cancel at the last minute due to illness so that people won't feel compelled to come infect me), but beyond that...I love germs. The more the merrier. I've never bought any of that anti-bacterial stuff, washing should entail soap and water not dry goop, and exposure to microorganisms allows the body to build up an immunity. Having this anti-bacterial stuff everywhere causes resist organisms to thrive.

I read somewhere that a third of school children are sent out with antibacterial wipes or goops or whatever. Great, foster the growth of resistant strains while creating little neurotic people. Just what the world needs.

Live a little, embrace a few buggies.