Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Feature: "Sanitation Sunday"

Chicago News Bench will present a post or two about health and sanitation on Sundays. Why? Because germs make us ill and even kill. Germs (also called microbes) kill more people die in an average year than war. Bacteria and viruses are types of microbes. With that in mind, we will bring you some information about hygiene, disease control, food safety, pets and related topics every weekend. I'm always astounded when I encounter somebody who is ignorant of this simple fact, something most Americans understand before the age of 10. One of the most important cultural changes in the history of Mankind was the relatively recent adoption of the simple practice of hand washing. That easy procedure has saved more lives than any vaccine just by preventing the spreading of germs and other illness causing agents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it nicely: "Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water." To put it simply, hand washing is the first - and probably the easiest - step in disease control. Keeping other things clean is important too, and for the same reasons. It's why we wash our dishes, for example. Cooking not only makes some foods taste better or easier to eat, it also kills germs in things such as raw meats. It's also why you need to keep your toothbrush clean. Some bad hygiene behavior I have observed or read about: - People grabbing their shoes in a way that their hands touch the bottom of the sole, and then they don't wash their hands. Don't they know where that shoe has been all day? Would they rub their hands on the sidewalk and street immediately before handling food? Would you lick the bottom of your shoe? - Keeping a toothbrush directly on the bathroom sink. That sink is right next to the toilet. MSNBC quotes health expert Chuck Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona as saying that when you flush, aerosolized toilet funk is propelled as far as 6 feet, settling on the floor, the sink, and your toothbrush. "Unless you like rinsing with toilet water, keep your toothbrush behind closed doors — in the medicine cabinet or a nearby cupboard," Gerba says. - Bad Pet Hygiene. Have you ever seen a dog roll around in the grass or lay down on the sidewalk? Of course you have, and that dog has just picked up a lot of germs. Like the soles of your shoes, dogs pick up germs all day long. It's amazing how many people don't think to wash their hands after touching them. It's even more disgusting when someone allows their dog to lick their ice cream cone. Dogs lick their own butts and God knows what else. Some even eat their own poop. I love dogs, and enjoy petting them, but a little common sense needs to be applied to the handling of these little disease carriers. And another thing: Now and then, every dog has a little accident in the house, but the for love of God, clean it up. To leave dried dog feces smeared on the floor for weeks is, to put it mildly, disgusting - and probably a sign of mental illness (of the owner, that is, not the dog). The word hygiene comes from Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health, who was the daughter of Aesculapius, the god of medicine. Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution (c.1750-1850) and the discovery of the germ theory of disease in the second half of the nineteenth century, hygiene and sanitation have been at the forefront of the struggle against illness and disease. (Source: These and many other hygiene-related topics will be covered in our "Sanitation Sunday" series. Until we get sick of doing it, that is.... but the material is endless. RELATED: Why Is Hand Washing So Important? KidsHealth How to Clean Your Toothbrush Cleaning Your Toothbrush Stopping Germs at Home, Work and School CDC Topic: Personal Hygiene Handwashing Fact Sheet Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services Communicable Disease Fact Sheets Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services Historic Deadly Plagues and How They Would Be Treated Today Washing Your Hands - How and Why it Is Important for Your Health Personal Hygiene Tips Personal Care and Hygiene Diogenes Syndrome: Living in Extreme Squalor House with dog feces emptied Nashua Telegraph The Role of Infections in Mental Illness