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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Prevention of Contagion - A Simple Lifestyle Choice

Vaccines are in the news again lately.  

In the State of Wisconsin, there is controversy regarding the legal validity of firing an employee who works in health care settings and educational settings who does not get the recommended flu shot each year.

I have a post on my views about the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of vaccines in protecting our health.

Prevention is Best

But are vaccines really prevention if you are giving every human infant exposure to the disease?  This might be introducing a new type of health threat, that is independent of the disease it is trying to prevent.  Maybe dead diseases, or weakened diseases, when injected into infants, increase the cases of  auto-immunity, in which the immune system works against the health of the child instead of for it.

In that post I talk about how vaccines can make us complacent about learning how to prevent transmission of viruses and disease causing bacteria.  If we rely too heavily on an infant's immune system to recognize, and eradicate all diseases it is presented with, we will not be pursuing funding for  continuing to develop public health methods and technology to prevent widespread contagion.

In that spirit, I offer a tiny recommendation that I have been practicing that I think is about an often overlooked habit that people do in public that can transmit viruses.

On Public Use Pens and Pencils -

Use your own pen!

At almost every place where I can buy something using a credit card or a check there are public pens available to sign your name on the receipt.  They have them at every clinic in the hospital we go to in little pots with flowers attached so you don't take them with you by accident.

I make sure to have my own pen in my checkbook, and another loose in my purse so that I never have to use the public pen.

Don't get me wrong, the public pen is a great convenience in helping me to spend my money.  It might even be safer in terms of contagion than using paper money and coins which can get very soiled over time and use.

For those people who forget to carry a pen on them, or who are only wearing a swimsuit and don't carry a purse, I think that if we are going to have these available, they should come out of dispensers with UV lights in them to kill germs in-between uses.  You can  recycle them back into the container.

My New Invention Idea:

I imagine a dispenser similar to a toothpick dispenser, where you put them into a bin at the top at the beginning of the day, and they dispense with gravity at the bottom when they are sufficiently clean.  If you have two of them, there will always be a pen ready (hopefully.)   To begin, you simply need to estimate the number of customer transactions you will be having in a single day and load it each morning with enough pens.

I suppose the ideal way would be to have a metal pen casing that would be cleaned with alcohol and/or UV light and the ink part would get inserted into it at the point of dispensing.  The cleaning would work against the dye or stain in the ink if you put the ink through the cleaning cycle.

Even easier would be eye scans, where nothing touches anything, but that is just too invasive.  Fingerprint scanners would work, and be easy to clean, and the one where you just wave your card at the machine even better.  But security seems lost in that way.  I don't think you can convince enough people that they wouldn't be charged for just walking by a cash register.

And then there are those pen-like pointers that come attached to a wire to a screen that you sign.  These are the worst because you can't really use your own pen, unless one end is a pointer itself, or you still have the cap on and it works for this application.

Anything that multiple people touch multiple times every single day increases the vector of possible distribution of contagions by magnitudes.  This includes light switches, door knobs, door pull-bars, toilet seat handles, sink handles, telephones, headsets, hangars in clothing stores, benches, arm-rests, hand-holds on escalators, buttons on elevators, gasoline pump dispensers, lockset keypads.

Bring Back Cotton Gloves

I have a set of very thin jersey cloth gloves in a cornflower blue that I wore all winter.  They were thin enough to keep on in the store, and fit tightly enough to touch and operate everything with good accuracy.  They weren't so tight that they hurt my hands or limited my dexterity.  I was wearing them throughout the day one time while running a number of errands, and realized I hadn't needed to take them off, except when I used the restroom.  And then I remembered when I was a little girl of seven and my Sister, Mom and I were all wearing soft, white cotton cloth gloves for Easter to Church.  What a great idea!

The white cotton made you very aware of what you were touching and how dirty it was.  And at that age, I liked that if I wanted to rub my nose or eyes with the back of the glove, it worked like a handkerchief.  Until my Mom reminded me to use a handkerchief.

So I bought some white cotton gloves from a costume shop.  They are very pretty.  I feel so Retro.  I figure I need one for every day I don't wash my clothes, and so I am going to have seven pairs.  Now, what to do for summer....

And back in the day, men actually used the pockets on their shirts to carry their own pen.

Now, we have the vestigial shirt pocket, which has no use whatsoever, and most people don't like the way the pocket feels on their t-shirts, so the pocket is left off.

I love the SteamPunk look.  Its back in time with coal and steel, and no plastic.  The men wear leather gloves.  So hot!

So there is hope for a change in fashion.

I think that if we all put our minds to it, we can make the world a safer place to live in with regard to viruses and bacteria, without making it more dangerous in terms of toxins, radiation, sticking 48 strains of dead viruses into babies, and other ways.  We just have to make up new rules for the competition...

Avoid contagion, without hurting the children or the environment the children grow up in.

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