Dunedin Hopsital is closed to visitors and all but emergency, mental health and maternity patients because of an outbreak of norovirus.
It’s only a couple of months since the gastric illness swept through Gore Hospital and other hopsitals, resthomes and schools have also had outbreaks.
Southland principals say one of the reasons the infection spreads is that people don’t stay at home when they are ill. I wonder if another cause is lowering standards of basic hygiene and an increase in practices which reduce immunity.
My mother was a nurse and when I was a child we weren’t allowed to come to the meal table until we had washed our hands – and washed them properly. Now people tend to graze rather than eat meals and from my observations few bother to wash their hands before eating.
But it’s not just pre-dining hygiene that’s lacking. A New Zealand Food Safety Authority survey showed that only 7.8% of people followed the 20/20 rule for hand washing after going to the loo – 20 seconds washing with soap and hot water and 20 seconds drying with a clean towel. But worse nearly 10% of women and 20% of men didn’t bother washing their hands at all.
Then we have the other extreme where life is too clean. We use antibacterial cleaning products which may lead to the development of superbugs from the .1% that aren’t zapped by the cleaner; children aren’t allowed to play in the mud or with animals; and we become so fastidious we’re not exposed to germs which help build our immunity.
Maybe we’d be healthier if we stopped worrying about clean dirt and became more particular about the dirty dirt.
If Mum was here she’d recommend we get back to the basics of housekeeping with hot, soapy water and elbow grease; wash our hands more thoroughly and more often; and stay at home when we’re ill so we keep our bugs to ourselves.