Strike a chord please, especially in light of the BMJ's article on Tuesday about the ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine for elderly last year - just wanted to make you also aware of the ultimate surface protection against viruses like H1N1, plus all the proliferating superbugs. It's making a huge difference to healthcare and hygiene standards....
War on flu has silver lining - but we're not taking all possible preventative measures...
Early September sees the start of free seasonal flu vaccinations for young children aged 2-8 and people aged 65 and over – and whilst it is the best protection we currently have against this unpredictable virus, flu can still cause severe illness and death amongst at-risk groups.
This is because H1N1 (Influenza virus A) genetic material mutates regularly into different strains to keep itself one step ahead of medical development. Indeed, when the seasonal flu vaccine was first issued it was barely able to protect people from the virus circulating in the UK that winter, preventing symptoms developing in just three out of every hundred vaccinated.
Inhospitable to viruses and bacteria
But there is a measure which is proven in both clinical studies and real life scenarios to reduce the H1N1 influenza virus by a massive 99.99% - and is easy to include in any infection control strategy.
BioCote Silver Ion Antimicrobial Technology makes all kinds of surfaces inhospitable to microbes including certain viruses such as H1N1, as well as a wide range of leading superbugs, bacteria, fungi and mold. These ‘invisible’ additives are simply integrated into everyday products at the time of manufacture.
They’re environmentally and ecologically acceptable and completely harmless to people and can be cost effectively manufactured into plastics, paints, textiles, ceramics, paper, board and many other work place and household materials. Because it does not wear out or wipe off surfaces, it provides a continuous and lifelong decontamination effect.
Simply put, viruses like H1N1 cannot survive on BioCote treated surfaces and technically speaking exposure to BioCote treated materials renders it non-infectious - through protein damage, membrane disruption and DNA interference.
H1N1 influenza (aka swine flu because it was associated with respiratory disease in pigs) symptoms typically include a high fever, aches and pains, extreme tiredness, headaches, painful ear ache and sore throat, plus a runny nose, but serious complications include acute bronchitis and pneumonia.
Unusually for a strain of flu, it disproportionately affects younger people, but the same can be said of other medically compromised sectors of society – pregnant women, diabetics, adults classed as morbidly obese, people with low immunity (receiving certain medications or cancer treatments), plus those with chronic respiratory, heart, kidney, liver and neurological diseases.
Because it’s highly contagious, infection can spread rapidly between people – especially with today’s widespread international travel between countries – and July 2009 saw the beginning of the most recent H1N1 influenza pandemic which affected millions of people across 74 countries.
Then, World Health Organization figures on estimated deaths were 18,500, but as these were only those confirmed by lab testing more recent findings by an international team of researchers and published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal put the new estimate at 284,500, but potentially as many as 579,000 deaths.
The World Health Organization also recently estimated another H1N1 pandemic could cost the UK economy over £70 billion – so there’s a huge monetary impact too. Just earlier this summer there have been reported cases and even one death in Myanmar in South East Asia, with fears of another swine flu outbreak in a country where few people get annual vaccinations against any strain of flu.
A breath of fresh air
Despite being referred to as swine flu, the H1N1 flu virus is not caught by eating infected meat. Like other flu viruses it is contracted from another person via droplets of mucous or saliva that contain the virus. The infected person breathes/coughs/sneezes the droplets out and the other person breathes them in. The virus is also spread by surface to surface cross-contamination.
BioCote Antimicrobial Technology is equally effective against the H7N9 strain also known as Avian or Bird Flu, but this virus does not easily infect people because the H7N9 has not mutated in a way that makes it transmissible by humans to other humans – up to now. Most of the cases of human infection with H7N9 have reported recent exposure to live poultry or potentially contaminated environments, especially contaminated surfaces in markets where live birds have been sold.
In short, antimicrobial technology can successfully be combined with thorough hand-washing practices and regular cleaning to minimize cross-contamination and become an essential and proactive element of infection control in virtually any public, commercial or domestic setting.
With flu viruses being able to survive on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours, currently accepted hand hygiene and cleaning procedures aren’t preventative enough in isolation - and additional measures need to be considered to combat this growing issue.