Fall is the start of the annual outbreak season. Commonly called, “Virus Season”, outbreaks are most prevalent between November and April, but are by no means limited to viruses alone.
How dirty is dirty?
Wherever people congregate tends to become an ideal breeding ground for viruses, bacteria and fungi. Left unchecked, microbial environments will flourish and thrive. Schools, hospitals, daycares, nursing homes and doctor’s offices are notoriously susceptible. Businesses that are open to the public are also vulnerable as are community spaces like libraries, gyms and sites of worship.
The American Society for Microbiology conducted a series of experiments to see just how rapidly contamination spread from a single doorknob in a high-traffic area. In as little as two to four hours after exposure, tracer viruses could be detected on 40-60 percent of those who interacted with the knob. High rates of contamination extended to other commonly touched surfaces like counter-tops, light switches, conference tables, remotes, cell phones and point-of-purchase card swipe terminals.
High-traffic surfaces need consistent attention. In other words, complacency kills. Controlling any illness starts with the microbiome and requires consistent, repetitive effort.
A single bacterium propagates at a rate of two new cells per hour. If a mere 10 bacteria cells were present on the doorknob in the cited experiment, within an hour there would be a total of 30 bacteria; within 10 hours the colony will replicate into well-over a half-million bacteria. Once the population of a contagion swells, more strenuous techniques will be required.
While most people have seen some of the devastating effects of COVID in recent years, dozens of other diseases spread rapidly via contact, including the common cold, influenza, strep throat, pink eye and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). While most people recover quickly from these common conditions, some like E. Coli, salmonella, listeria, SARS or norovirus can have devastating effects on the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who can suffer lingering effects for weeks at a time. For vulnerable groups like these, sometimes simple exposure can lead to death.