Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mamma Was Right. Well, nearly always.

Welcome to a location where germophobes can come out of the closet and help exchange ideas. We can discuss the whys and wherefores, good ideas, bad ideas, suggestions such as how to diplomatically avoid hand shaking when eating. We’ll try to define germophobia (even though it isn’t in some dictionaries). We can thus define it as we see it, and I think that will surprise many people.

Everyone’s goal is to live, robustly, as long as possible. It won’t just happen on its own because, as with all inhabitants of this planet, our environment is naturally hostile. Healthy eating, physical activity and a good attitude are all important, but the big question is: Where does disease come from and why can physically fit people with good attitudes who eat well get sick and die before their time?


Do you know anyone who died of old age?

If you ask someone what most people die from, they generally say old age. The fact is that almost no one you know dies of old age … unless, that is, you know someone who lived about 110 years. We can say that someone dies of old age if an autopsy confirms a finding of none of the usual causes such as cancer, heart disease, pneumonia and such. Absent these (and other) usual causes of death, people can live well past 100, probably even past 110. Were it not for disease, our bodies would simple wear out and we would check out in our sleep. Furthermore, there is no handwriting on the wall mandating that we get any particular disease during our lives other than the relatively rare ones of strictly genetic origin and cause.

Some types of cancer seem to be genetically caused. Even here, the fact is that identical twins don’t necessarily get the same cancers. What is known is that many cancers depend on accidental changes occurring in the DNA within some of our cells. Those changes are usually discovered and disposed of by our immune system. The causes for those changes are sometimes known: they might be, for example radiation, sunlight, tobacco, viruses, carcinogens, food additives, etc, etc. In many cases of cancer, the causes are not yet known but the short list just presented cannot be ruled out. A healthy, well tuned immune system can go a long way to protect us but clearly we can observe that there are no guarantees that way. There is, however one way to guarantee not getting certain diseases: Do not expose yourself to the TRIGGERS for THOSE DISEASES. This is of course, in a practical world, not possible. But the next best thing is: REDUCE your exposure to the causes.


We live in a world of cause and effect. Disease is no exception. If the cause for a specific disease is present, we are subjected to a certain chance of getting it. If the cause for a specific disease is removed from our environment, we don’t get it. If the cause for a specific disease is attenuated in some way, it is certainly reasonable that our chances for getting it may go down accordingly. Factored into all this is, of course, the state of our immune system at any given time and whether our specific genetic makeup is vulnerable to a specific disease.

Disease doesn’t just magically appear in our bodies, although it might sometimes seem that way. If we were able to, but we usually aren’t, we would be able to see a certain time and place when some disease started, or was introduced to our bodies. We might observe a single cancer cell surviving when thousands of others during that particular episode or many similar ones, were taken care of and destroyed by our immune systems.

Some forms of our major killer diseases, heart disease and cancer, are known to be caused, or triggered, by microbes and viruses. These microscopic triggers of disease somehow manage to get from the outside world to inside our bodies. Common mechanisms are by ingesting them, by rubbing our eyes with infected fingers, by inserting infected fingers into our nostrils, through cuts in our skin, in some cases inhaling them and other ways. Your mamma was right … keep your hands clean.

Say you hold on to a strap in the subway, grab a doorknob somewhere, hold on to a railing while walking on a public stairway … what are the chances, you might ask, of catching something. Actually, the chances are just about ZERO! It is very close to impossible to catch something that way.

So why bother listening to mamma?

The chance might be very low, but, a big BUT, the chance is NOT zero!

Now follow this carefully. You are a relatively sanitary person and have an average awareness of personal hygiene. But you don’t go overboard. You don’t wash the skins of cantaloupes or oranges before eating them, you might cut through a banana skin to cut it in half, you come home with contaminated hands and don’t immediately clean them --- each of these things has a nearly zero chance of giving you a problem --- but --- it’s not actually zero. Say you have one chance in a hundred thousand to get a problem from something similar to the things mentioned above. One chance in a hundred thousand is a pretty small number. Consider that you go fishing everyday. Assume that the chance for your catching a fish is one in a hundred thousand. You’d have to fish on average for about 274 years for each fish you catch.

Now let’s say you eat three meals a day, plus three snacks but you don’t carefully wash just before you eat. Say you use a public restroom a couple of times a day and you grasp the doorknob on the way out. Say you walk barefoot around the house, say you use public phones, say you handle all sorts of unhygienic things, say you pay no attention to chemical additives in food … particularly nitrates and nitrites, dyes and colors, say you smoke, say you pay no attention to the warning labels on chemical cleaners and other household chemicals ... say a lot of stuff. Let’s then assume that you do only 20 such things, on average, per day. That’s over 7000 opportunities to infect yourself in any given year! Let’s further assume each of these things has just a tiny one in THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND chance of triggering a serious disease. The math says, that on average once in forty years, you will contract one of those diseases!

Admittedly, we’ve just pulled some of these numbers out of the air. There is no solid basis for the one-in-300,000 --- it might be more, it might be less but it seems safely on the conservative side because it is so tiny. As we look at the people around us, it is not an unreasonable observation that we see at least one serious disease in a forty year span of time per average individual. Please don’t interpret the numbers here as a calculation of anything in particular. It is meant only to show how highly improbable events can, if repeated and repeated over extremely long periods, happen. One can easily imagine a series of unlikely coincidences. Someone with an active disease gets saliva on his/her hands and touches something. You come along almost immediately, touch it and rub your eyes. Your immune systems which worked perfectly millions of times suddenly make a tiny mistake. A very unlikely scenario --- but given time the extremely unlikely can happen. Actually, it’s almost a certainty.

If the things mentioned above are indeed possible causes of disease, we can greatly influence whether or not we get a disease by changing our exposure. A large affect can be achieved easily, and can have a dramatic result on our long term health. This is, I guess, what your mamma tried to tell you about washing your hands and the way germophobes think.


The causes for some diseases are known. The causes for most of our diseases are not known per disease, but collectively they are. Here is a list of causes or triggers which should cover virtually every disease:

Chemicals … atmospheric pollution, household cleaners, paints Etc.
Natural factors … radon, sunshine, radiation --- see below.
Chemicals in foods … Certain additives, pesticides
Radiation … X-Rays, cosmic rays, natural radioactivity

In addition to this list are (1) genetic diseases which begin at the moment of conception and the courses of which are generally not alterable and (2) diseases which are contracted by the fetus during pregnancy.


Most people are very surprised to learn that a stomach ulcer is caused by a bacterium called H-pylori. You “catch” ulcers.
It isn’t, as has been long believed, that a certain type of personality gives you ulcers. You have perhaps a ten percent chance of getting ulcers if you have H-pylori bacteria, but you do not get ulcers if you don’t have the bacteria. The presence of this bacteria is also linked to stomach cancer. (see “The Bacteria Behind Ulcers”, Martin J. Blaser, Scientific American, February 1996)

The discovery of this bacterium won Dr. B. J. Marshall and Dr. J. R. Warren Nobel Prizes. Their discovery was all more amazing because it had to go against long held medical dogma that acid and diet caused ulcers.

In developed countries, including the United States, H-pylori is found in about 40 percent of people of senior age, and in smaller amounts closely proportional to age at younger ages. In developing countries, H-pylori is found in about 70 percent of children by the age of about 10! This dramatic difference can be traced to differences in hygiene and sanitation.

There is a strong message and conclusion here. Stomach cancer and /or ulcers are not inevitable diseases. While H-pylori microbes might be everywhere in our environment, as we see in the data from developing countries, one really doesn’t have to become infected. It is believed that there are a number of similar bacteria which may be causing many of our serious digestive system diseases.


“ … the most popular current theory is that the disease occurs in people with a genetic susceptibility who are exposed to some environmental assault (a virus or a toxin)” ( See University of Maryland Medical Center, 12/31/2002, Home>Medical Reference>Patient Education --- What Causes Multiple Sclerosis? )


So you don’t think you can catch heart disease? Read on.

“Although still far from proven, the hypothesis that infection may play a role in developing artery blockage is becoming increasingly attractive. In the last issue of this Newsletter we described a possible role of chlamydia pneumoniae, a bacteria, in the development of atherosclerosis” (Lahey Hitchcock Clinic, Cardiovascular Letter, May 1997)

“A number of scientists have confirmed a link between Chlamydia pneumoniae … and atherosclerosis… “ (Scientific American, April, 1996, page 24)

Also true is that this bacterium is a common one, and the mechanism by which it operates is not understood.

If you search this in google you’ll find numerous references to studies around the world on this.


Washington, (CNN) -- Medical researchers have long dreamed of finding a way to prevent cancer.
Now, a study from Georgetown University indicates that vaccinating an infant against the hepatitis B virus may provide a lifetime of protection from liver cancer, most cases of which are caused by the virus.
CNN: Health Story Page
December 8, 1997


Substances that cause cancer, called carcinogens, have been identified both by studies in experimental animals and by epidemiological analysis of cancer frequencies in human populations (e.g., the high incidence of lung cancer among cigarette smokers). Since the development of malignancy is a complex multistep process, many factors may affect the likelihood that cancer will develop, and it is overly simplistic to speak of single causes of most cancers. Nonetheless, many agents, including radiation, chemicals, and viruses, have been found to induce cancer in both experimental animals and humans. (from … “The Cell a Molecular Approach” by Geoffrey M. Cooper)


We can go on and on researching our most serious diseases and find, for so many of them, that there is no conclusive information on exactly why some of us get sick. In general, our genes play a big part in determining what diseases we might have a vulnerability to, and then environmental factors take us to the next step.

There are some things we can take as given. Viruses and microbes do not appear spontaneously from nowhere within our bodies. They, as well as most of the other causes of disease, come from the environment. So, if it’s easy for us to do, might as well make it difficult for them to enter.

We must be careful to note that just because a disease is caused by a virus or bacteria it does not mean it is contagious, or easily transferred between individuals. For many of our serious diseases the causes and the processes by which they start are unknown. But also, for the same reason, a very weak and low level form of contagious transfer seems not to be ruled out. Until more is known, being a little obsessive, a little germophobic, when it takes almost no effort and doesn’t get in the way of normal living, may not be a bad thing. That, anyway, is the way germophobes might reason.

The list of diseases for which viral or bacterial involvement is suspected goes on and on … certain forms of leukemia, certain forms of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, arthritic joint disease, cervical cancer, Etc.

“Personally I think we have overestimated the genetic component of schizophrenia,” …. “The evidence supporting genetic models can be explained by other biological factors, such as a virus that strikes in utero” (E. Fuller Torrey, Psychiatrist,
Scientific American, June, 1993, pg 128)

Practically no one we know dies of old age, yet it would appear that most of our diseases are not inevitable. It’s interesting to speculate what our life expectancy would be if we significantly decreased our exposure to some of these avoidable diseases but made no other changes in our life style.

We keep hearing, during times of epidemics, during flu season, on cruise ships, that the single best way to avoid getting sick is to keep your hands clean. There is good reason to believe that this model for disease avoidance really has strong implications for most if not all diseases related to viruses and bacteria. How did mamma know so much?


What anyway is a Germophobe?

Germophobia is not a well defined property and you probably won’t find it in most dictionaries. It is certainly not just a fear of germs. Anyone with any degree of common sense has some level of fear of some germs. (Generally, when we use the term, “germs”, we mean bacteria and we include viruses. We may consider someone a germophobe when he/she behaves very far from the norm in the avoidance of germs. But how far is far? Living in a bubble might qualify someone as a germophobe. Never leaving one’s home certainly might. Becoming a hermit. But how about washing one’s hands before eating, every time? Washing one’s hands, every time before eating is pretty far from the norm. Just notice the next time you are in a restaurant.

A survey in the New York Times, Sept. 16, 1996, finds that just 60 percent of those using the rest room at Penn Station wash their hands after doing their business. That should be an unsettling thought when people grab your hand after an introduction. It is easy to observe however, that probably fewer than ten percent of people coming into a restaurant go to a rest room before eating. The prevailing theory seems to be that if you washed when you left your home you’re OK!

Being a germophobe is a bad idea if it interferes with your life. In other words, if doing your idiosyncratic germo stuff takes any significant time or effort away from the other aspects of your life, you might be making a big mistake. Just as with most aspects of our lives, things can be carried too far. A point could be reached where one might fear touching anything, or touching anyone. Some people might fear simply going outdoors, or to any public place. This behavior is sad and perhaps displays mental illness which can only be pitied. Living even 120 years this way is not worth it and we strongly caution that those who feel they are in any sense going in such a direction should critically evaluate their goals in life and perhaps seek help.

We might, however, consider simple and non-time-consuming actions that might have that tiny effect on the reduction of disease risk that we spoke of earlier. For example, how much extra effort is it to NOT walk barefoot around your home? None, I would guess. The risk of infection is slight, but reducing that risk to nearly zero is a very big benefit received for no effort. You can do a lot of gym work and not get that kind of return for your effort.

Is washing your hands, say, 20 times a day, obsessive-compulsive behavior?

I guess ultimately it depends on one's personal view of the preciousness of life and what things might be done to preserve it. It is quite true that many of the connections between the diseases mentioned earlier and the possible causes are awaiting rigorous proof, and may never be proven. However when the action to be taken takes virtually no effort, and the possible result might be life or death, for some people it’s an easy choice despite the uncertainty of the benefit.

I keep recalling watching a TV program that I saw during the '80's. A young woman was talking about obsessive-compulsive behavior. She said that washing your hands more than 14 times a day was a sure sign of obsessive-compulsive behavior. Her general appearance and dress was that of a flower person, still hanging on, from the previous decade. She might have had much more credibility had her face not been covered with pimples.

No need to be an obsessive compulsive, whatever that is. Being aware of disease is just a way of thinking, a certain frame of mind. It takes no extra effort to avoid foods, at some social function, that have handled in an unsanitary way. Over the long term, many such simple things might provide you with far more life expectancy than hours each week of rigorous gym work. Which is harder to do?

And mostly, lighten up! Life can be light hearted. Practicing a little germophobery will certainly invite kidding. Smile your way through it and perhaps we will, together, develop a rationale.


My age is right at the life expectancy point for Americans. In looking over my various groups of friends over the years, I find, and this seems strange, that those that have passed on were ones that I would have ranked the fittest and most athletic of the people I knew. I conclude from this that what seems to be physical fitness plus a lifetime of active athletic participation may not have any relationship to health and longevity. There seem to be other factors that might have a greater impact on our health.

Does anyone have any statistics comparing life expectancy of very athletic individuals relative to the average population? They would be a most welcome contribution to this web page. It seems that famous sports figures die from the same diseases and at the same ages that everyone else does. One would think that sports professionals, because their profession requires it, are at a level of physical fitness far above us ordinary mortals. So why do they seem to be dying like the rest of us?

Some degree of exercise and activity, however, is essential. It is needed to maintain healthy heart function, muscle function, personal energy and a feeling of well being. Regular exercise probably helps keep blood pressure in a good range. The only point being made here is don’t think physical fitness is your guarantee to a long healthy life. It isn’t.


Our immune systems degrade rapidly as we age. Be careful to not assume that your resistance to disease when you were 20 is still with you at middle age. It’s wise to consider compensating for the increased susceptibility with age by being at least a little germophobic.

One of the silliest points about immunity I keep hearing is that being a little un-hygienic is a good thing because it boosts one's immunity. Certainly if one catches a disease then there is likely immunity to that disease in the future. Is this a good thing? If you catch a form of leukemia or diabetes that’s caused by a virus, is it a benefit that you won’t get it a second time?? If we look at disease data from second and third world countries do we find a reduced disease rate thankfully explained by less hygiene and poor sanitation?? Of course not!! One might argue that limited medical care in those countries might make it appear that the disease rate is higher to some degree. But if they are much hardier than we are they ought not require the additional medical care. If anyone has any statistics or knowledge of any studies purporting to show an inverse relationship between disease and hygiene it would be welcomed to this web site.

We would also welcome any statistics which could relate being germophobic with health. We can speculate forever on this issue but statistics would be interesting although I’ve never seen any.

Here is an observation which I think is significant but difficult to quantify as a statistic. Suppose we find a person who is germophobic over the top and at the same time has a health statistic that is one in ten thousand. How significant would that be? The Queen Mother of England, who died recently was over 101 years old. I understand that the chance for reaching 100 is about one in ten thousand. She almost never shook hands with anyone, wore gloves always, never handled doorknobs or little else and had food prepared in the most scrupulously sanitary manner imaginable. In addition, she may have had compromised genes as a member of the Royal family and its limited gene pool. Is there a message here?


You have friends whom you believe are perfectly healthy. Can you catch anything from them? Probably not, but if they did have some disease there are several methods of transmission that are obvious. Among several --- any transfer of saliva should be considered as the same (relatively low) risk as the other things mentioned earlier. Dinner time provides opportunities and includes licking fingers then passing something, eating food off someone else’s plate, talking over food to be passed along, Etc. Your friends could easily have diseases for which symptoms have not yet emerged, or they could be harboring diseases which, because of their genes, will never show symptoms. This person could be a carrier for that disease and will never become aware of that fact

The majority of people who contract acute hepatitis B will completely recover, but a small percentage may develop chronic hepatitis and become carriers of the disease. Carriers are people who have the virus in their blood and can infect others. According to the ALF, up to 10% of young adults who have the disease become chronic carriers and currently, 1.25 million Americans are hepatitis B carriers. Every year approximately 6000 Americans die from cirrhosis of the liver (irreparable scarring) or liver cancer caused by this disease. (Women’s Health e-Newsletter, January 2004)

It is possible to be infected by "undesirable" organisms but not have a disease. In the carrier state a person is infected, usually at a low level, by a potentially harmful organism, but no symptoms occur. For example typhoid (Salmonella typhi) causes severe illness in most people. However, in a few people, the bacteria take up residence in the gall bladder and cause no disease. Carriers are a hazard to others as they can still transmit the infection.
(Southern Illinois University Carbondale … Dept. of Microbiology … unidentified textbook)

Typhoid Mary …
Mary Mallon was what's known as a healthy carrier - a person who is contagious but has no symptoms. She had probably come down with a mild, undetected case of typhoid fever in 1900 and had retained active germs ever since.
While preparing food, she shed bacteria from her hands, and it never occurred to her that she was spreading disease. When her condition was explained to her, she refused to believe it and fought back by secretly hiring a private laboratory, whose results reportedly showed that she was free from infection. (Nova, TV Program Description, August, 2004)

Can any or many diseases really be transmitted through saliva?

Researchers at the 2005 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C, said today that a saliva-based diagnostic is evolving to test for bacteria, viruses, illegal drug use, steroids, antibodies, DNA and RNA, potentially reducing the need for blood and urine testing.
Saliva is a reflection of our body, our circulation and our blood," Dr. David Wong of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jonsson Cancer Center, told reporters at a AAAS news briefing.

This might be important to consider in regard to restaurants using buffets with no "sneeze shields". Another potential problem would be eating food from someone else’s plate.

To summarize, we humans seem capable, for some reason, of harboring and spreading diseases for which we have no symptoms. Good to keep that in mind.

I’m sure many will say that so much of what is said here is conjecture and not proven. It isn’t, but so what? As long as the things you can do take virtually zero effort, and the payoff just might be living longer, maybe much longer, then why not?? When the payoff is huge relative to the investment, which is so tiny, you don’t have to think too long about it. It’s real easy to be considerate of others when passing food. It’s real easy to not lick your fingers when eating with others.


Observations, suggestions, a little germophobic of course that you may or may not have thought of. We welcome comments contributing to this list.

When your doctor takes your blood pressure, have him place the cuff OVER your sleeve (shirt or blouse, not your coat of course). It seems most doctors and nurses now recognize this is the safer way to do it.

When in your dentist’s chair, check to see if the handle on his overhead light has new disposable plastic shields in place. If you call to your dentist’s attention that they’re not there, and if he doesn’t give you a pleasant apology and correct the situation, I’d change dentists. It is beyond belief that just a few years ago they did not use those shields. I’d also change dentists if he walks out of the office for more than a few seconds and doesn’t put on a new pair of latex gloves.

It’s a good idea to not press a public telephone against your ear. Also a good idea to wash your hands after you use one.

Little by little, restaurants will realize they should make it possible to leave their restrooms by simply pushing on the door. (Don’t use your hands, use your shoulder). Until they do, be sure to use a bit of paper towel to grasp the doorknob. Most places seem to understand this is done and provide a trash basket near the door to throw the paper into. If not, I drop it on the floor behind the door. It seems that ultimately they get the message.

On the subject of restaurants, it’s interesting to consider the view of our government concerning cleanliness. I’ve included a separate post, below, with a reference to the FDA food codes. You don’t know what germophobia is until you check out the FDA food handling regulations.

When you go to a movie, be sure you wear long sleeves.

Check that your barber keeps his instruments sterile. I normally tell him to not bother using the dusting brush, or whatever it’s called. Women must be very careful when they have nails done. I have no suggestions because I don’t know the process.

Taking frequent showers: Daily showers are probably not needed unless (1) you’ve gotten some of your body parts dirty, or (2) you’ve been sweating. The main point of showering is to stay clean and hygienic, but daily may not be essential. However, a common habit is to walk out of the shower barefoot to another room. In just a few seconds the whole point of showering is undone by seriously contaminating your feet and risking potentially dangerous infections through fissures on your feet!

Coughing into your armpit. Sounds funny, but this is seriously suggested in flyers you find in doctors' offices, hospitals, nursing homes Etc. At a dinner get-together, coughing or sneezing into one’s hand is is a sure way to pass your cold (or worse) along. The next time you pass the salt, or anything, it’s done. Even worse if you’re involved with food preparation. The armpit is OK for a light, sudden cough. But a more serious one, or a sneeze must be into a tissue … which should then be discarded and the hands should then be well washed. If you’re sneezing so often that this becomes a nuisance, you should not have been there spreading your cold.


I found the following link “Curing Obsessive Cleanliness” and here is a part of what is there:

* * * * *

“ ---- Behavior: Curing Obsessive Cleanliness

Cure your obsessive cleanliness. Learn how to maintain good hygiene and orderliness without driving others nuts. If your inability to endure a less than pristine environment is undermining your ability to function normally, you need this course.

This course is one of a series developed by Dr. Jay Prince and now licensed exclusively to Mindconnection through his widow. During his lifetime, Dr. Prince treated many patients who needed to overcome a problem through psychotherapy. Dr. Prince also had several corporate clients, who came to him for solving dysfunctional situations within their companies.
In Memoriam
Dr. Jay Prince, the developer of our behavior courses, passed away in 2001. This was a rapid cancer that claimed him well before old age. ---- ”

* * * * *

Here is a person who promoted getting cured of obsessive cleanliness and designed a program to help people achieve that goal. His course is intended to help make you comfortable with compromising your idea of an hygienic environment.

If you make people around you “nuts” because, for example, you suggest hands be washed just before touching or preparing ready to eat food and that fingers ought not be licked --- it’s not you who needs a cure. A little educating might be in order.

None of the things we’ve spoken about should drive anyone “nuts” despite the fact, that because these things are so often ignored, people might view them as a little “germophobic” or obsessive.

We are saddened Dr. Prince died apparently very young but absent any information we can’t speculate on his situation.

Neither should we dismiss OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. It may, in some cases be a very serious problem going far beyond an inability to endure a “less than pristine environment”. As with many behavioral disorders, exactly defining parameters is not easy, but certainly if someone is driven to wash their hands every fifteen minutes, there is a serious problem that’s related to much more than being germophobic. People with OCD will find themselves irrationally driven to repeat things they find compelled to do over and over again. This can produce very serious limitations on a person’s life and indicates help of some sort is needed.


Germs give you immunity. What’s wrong with that? We have immune systems that react to disease and that immunity lasts and is therefore good. Right?

Vaccines certainly are used to create immunity. But vaccines frequently use pathogens which are modified to be incapable of causing disease but still capable of activating immunity reactions. If you feel you wish to expose yourself to viruses to gain immunity, good luck. You might get something incurable which you will get only once because immunity will protect you from a second infection. Suppose you get a form of cancer will you then feel lucky you won’t get it again??

Some vaccines work by delivering a measured amount of a single specific pathogen which is large enough to trigger the immune reaction, but just not large enough to make you sick. Once again --- good luck for being able to accomplish that by being unsanitary!

There are more germs in your mouth than on a public toilet seat. Right?

We see this so many times. Would you feel comfortable licking a toilet seat?? Certainly it’s possible that our mouths have more germs, but is that really the point? What is important is obviously the type not the quantity. I don’t wish to “gross myself out”, or you for that matter, with any details of how body fluids from very sick people can end up in contact with you if you are very cavalier about this matter. Once again, as we discussed earlier, the chances are very low but not zero. And when we consider repetitive low probability events which can have highly serious results it is prudent to be careful especially when it’s very easy to do so.

I have seen this comment a couple of times “ … I don’t know of anyone who ever got sick from a doorknob …. Or a toilet seat … ?? This sort of comment ….”not knowing anyone …” is enough to make one laugh. And at this point in this blog, nothing further need be said about this type of comment.

How about: “Everyone does it …. It’s normal …. Practically no-one washes their hands just before eating …. Practically no-one (fill in the blank) ….. “

Note that everyone, every normal person, is also therefor subjected to the NORMAL life expectancy … 75 for American men, 80 for American women. If it’s OK with you to meet your end consistent with our normal life expectancy then you probably won’t be disappointed when you keep doing normal things. It’s been my experience however, seeing friends whose age was near our life expectancy pass away, that they just seemed too young to go and that they potentially had many more years left in them. If we can avoid disease and accidents nature gives our bodies a lifetime of well over 110 years.


There are good reasons for the cruising industry to maintain healthy conditions on their ships. You can thus be sure that the advice they give, and the procedures they employ, for maintaining health might be good models for everyday life. There’s business and profit involved and their doctors seem to know what to do. Why don’t the same things apply to our lives when we’re not on a boat . … the bugs and viruses may not be the same but the general approach to prevention probably is.


If you wish to do some reading by an expert on germs and viruses in our environment visit Dr. Germ, (University of Arizona Professor Charles P. Gerba)


New York Times: May 17, 2005 By NICHOLAS BAKALAR

A report issued last month by the American Academy of Microbiology paints a much more complex picture of infectious disease. Germs, scientists are learning, are probably the cause of many illnesses that were never thought to be infectious, and determining exactly how a germ contributes to disease is no longer simple.

Dr. Ronald Luftig, an author of the academy's report and a professor of microbiology at the Louisiana State University Health Science Center, "There have been a lot of chronic human illnesses thought to be genetic or environmental, but when you look at them in more detail, it turns out there's involvement of bacteria, groups of bacteria or viruses."
Some microbes can contribute to more than one disease. The papillomavirus, for example, can lead not only to cervical cancer, but also to cancer of the penis and anus, venereal warts, common warts and cancers of the head and neck. Epstein-Barr virus, the cause of infectious mononucleosis, is almost as versatile, associated with Burkitt's lymphoma in Africa and with throat cancer and Hodgkin's disease, among other cancers.

Helicobacter pylori, found in the mid-1980's to be a cause of peptic ulcer disease, was later implicated as a contributor to gastric lymphoma as well.

There are almost certainly still unknown microbes creating chronic illness. "One of the suspects in multiple sclerosis is Epstein-Barr virus," Dr. Luftig said. "The DNA of the virus integrates into your cells; it's there permanently. Is it a cause? Maybe."

Dr. Luftig suggests several other diseases that may have microbial triggers. "There's an enterovirus that's involved in destroying pancreatic islet cells," he said. "Maybe diabetes is caused by an immune reaction to infection. Intrauterine exposure to infection may play a role in schizophrenia."

No one yet knows for sure. But researchers - doctors, microbiologists, epidemiologists, geneticists - have their suspicions, and are searching carefully.

"We're not saying that everything is due to microbes," Dr. Luftig said. "But the more investigative tools we develop and the more we have interacting groups of researchers with varying specialties, the more we can start to pick out potential agents that were never before suspected."

(following from the Washington Univ. in Saint Louis, Feb. 26, 1998)

Most people know that cigarettes and high-fat food can contribute to atherosclerosis, the leading killer in the developed world. But is an unhealthy lifestyle all it takes to clog arteries? A small but vocal group of researchers believes the vascular disease starts with a virus, not a cheeseburger. According to the theory, vascular damage caused by a virus could lay a foundation for the build-up of plaque.

Though it has its supporters, this theory always has suffered a credibility problem -- there has never been any direct evidence that viruses can injure human vessels. Now, thanks to a surprising School of Medicine discovery, there is a new reason to reconsider the idea. In the December 1997 issue of Nature Medicine, the researchers reported that a virus related to those that cause mononucleosis and Kaposi's sarcoma can injure arteries in mice, the first time such an effect had been seen in mammals. The study was supported by Monsanto-Searle, the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.

Viruses under suspicion

The virus used in the study is found only in mice, but it's closely related to the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis in humans. About 75 percent of people older than 30 carry this virus, Speck said. Another member of the same viral family is thought to cause Kaposi's sarcoma, a cancer most commonly seen in AIDS patients. The extremely common herpes virus simplex 1, the cause of cold sores, is a more distant relative. "These viruses are now legitimate candidates for initiating human vascular disease," Virgin said. "It's a possibility that deserves further investigation."
-- Chris Woolston


A bacterium linked to heart disease may also be a factor in age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 55 in the United States.

A new study has found the organism, Chlamydia pneumoniae, in the eye tissue of 6 of 9 patients with macular degeneration, but in none of 22 who did not have the disorder.

The paper, based on work carried out at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, was published in the November issue of Graefe's Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology.

"There is growing evidence that chronic inflammation plays a role in the development of macular degeneration," Dr. Miller said, "and our findings suggest that chlamydia may cause some of this inflammation."
But, she warned, "Our data is very preliminary, and really just supports a link between chlamydia and macular degeneration."


Is it possible you could have caught a virus that is causing you to gain weight? It may just be possible. See the report on a study reported by Scientific American on line: LINK BETWEEN VIRUS AND WEIGHT GAIN


An extremely informative web site for information on rheumatic diseases is found at the Arthritis Center of Riverside.

The interrelationship between infections and rheumatic diseases has been discussed in the medical literature for decades. Microorganisms that cause bone and joint disease include bacteria, Mycoplasmas, viruses, fungi, and parasites.

Bacterial infections Bacterial infections are most important in rheumatological diseases since they are known to cause septic arthritis (figure 1), reactive arthritis (figure 2), osteomyelitis (figure 3), and osteitis.

Viral infections There are multiple viruses implicated in arthritis. There are some viruses that frequently cause arthritis (figure 4), such as rubella virus, human parvovirus B19, Hepatitis B virus, and others that less commonly affect the joints (figure 5).

(Above is excerpted from the Arthritis Center website where the figures are also found)


An article by Keen A. Rafferty, Jr. in Scientific American, Oct. 1973 summarizes evidence of a virus-cancer connection.

" … It has been known for some time that these ubiquitous viruses can cause cancer in experimental animals. There is now much evidence that a virus of this type is also implicated in some cancers of man. "
The following abstract is from the "Information & Knowledge for Optimal Health Project":

Abstract: Type 2 herpes simplex virus belongs to the herpes virus group, members of which have been shown to cause cancer in animals -- kidney cancer in frogs, lymphoid cancer in chickens and rabbits, and lung cancer in sheep. A herpes virus causes Burkett's lymphoma in humans; another causes nasopharyngeal cancer in humans. Herpes simplex viruses are common in humans in cervical and vaginal sores in women and in the genital tract in men (an estimated 15% of men older than 15). It is transmitted venereally. Type 2 herpes simplex virus has been epidemiologically associated with cervical cancer. It has been found in prostate cancer cells. In a hybridization experiment with DNA from cervical cancer cells, DNA from type 2 herpes simplex virus was found, but 60% of the viral DNA molecule was missing. In the chicken lymphoid cancer caused by a herpes virus, live virus vaccine eradicated the disease. This suggests that, if type 2 herpes simplex virus is found to cause cervical cancer, a vaccination cure can be developed.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006



I would much sooner trust almost any greasy spoon over eating at most private homes. The reason is simply that most eating establishments have at least been exposed to food handling regulations and have some sense of what’s correct, whereas most other individuals don’t seem to have a clue. In many homes, the skins of fruits, such as oranges and cantaloupes are usually not washed, fingers are licked, hands which have not been just washed get into foods, hands may have been coughed or sneezed into, the same utensil is used repeatedly for tasting …. One can go on and on. For many years already, I have been pleasantly surprised seeing commercial food handlers coughing into their upper sleeves and not into their hands. I have yet to see anyone I know do that.

The following are very brief excerpts from a very small part of the FDA Food Code presented here just to give a sense of how federal regulations view the prevention of disease when it comes to food handling. There is much interesting detail in the code and it quite worthwhile to check it out at FDA 2001 Food Code Particularly check Chapters 2, 3 and 4

(A) Raw fruits and vegetables shall be thoroughly washed

(A) Food employees shall wash their hands as specified under § 2-301.12.

(B) food employees may not contact exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands and
shall use suitable utensils such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single-use gloves, or dispensing

A food employee may not use a utensil more than once to taste food that is to be sold or served.

(A) Cloths that are in use for wiping food spills shall be used for no other purpose.

(C) Dry or wet cloths that are used with raw animal foods shall be kept separate from cloths used
for other purposes, and wet cloths used with raw animal foods shall be kept in a separate
sanitizing solution.

Hands and Arms

(A) Except as specified in (B) of this section, food employees shall clean their hands and
exposed portions of their arms (or surrogate prosthetic devices for hands or arms) for at least 20
seconds, using a cleaning compound in a lavatory that is equipped as specified under § 5-202.12.

(Highly detailed description of the required cleaning procedure follows here) …….

(F) During food preparation, as often as necessary to remove soil and contamination and to
prevent cross contamination when changing tasks;

(G) When switching between working with raw food and working with ready-to-eat food;

(H) Before donning gloves for working with food; and

(I) After engaging in other activities that contaminate the hands.

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