I suspect most of us have been getting away from even basic good hygiene far too long — until The Virus came along.
We avoided death but not always sickness. Our health was more a factor of chance and providence. Also, we have clean water, fairly clean fresh food, disease-resistant bodies and great health care.
So we’d come to not expect the Spanish Flu (not really theirs any more than is the “China Virus”) or the Black Death plague.
I’m a prime example of careless living because we falsely believe things like the “English Sweat” of 1485, which killed tens of thousands, are behind us.
I have seldom washed my hands unless it’s in the shower. I mean truly washed, not a quick rinse after going doodoo. I didn’t often wash my hands before cooking. And to be honest, I thought it was excessive to do that wash and blow dry in a theater or airport after peeing. My penis is not dirty.
Sometimes I got very sick but wrote it off as a “foreign bug” because I usually got it while traveling.
So in Iceland last year, I got so sick I couldn’t eat or drive. A local doctor said it was a “nose infection” and gave me medicine. Three or four days later I recovered. I now think it was bacterial from touching everything everywhere and never washing my hands.
I got so sick in Colombia that I needed wheelchair assistance at the airports there and here on the way home. Could barely walk. I now suspect no-hand-washing.
Most common are bacterial infections — likely what I had. Certain bacteria are able to survive outside of a host and remain infective for extended periods of time. These organisms may be found anywhere, but when they exist on furniture, door knobs or other things used by many people, transmission is more likely to occur. Consumption of contaminated food is another common mode of transmission of bacterial infection.
What really worries me now that we’ve come face-to-face with Covid-19 is secondary bacterial infection after the initial viral infection.
Dr. Jonathan McCullers, professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and chair of the pediatrics infectious disease department, says:
“Major public health agencies are funding studies on viral interactions, and data are starting to trickle out that indicate what clinicians have known for some time: Secondary pneumonia following influenza infection is a big problem.”
So I’m washing my hands several times a day and especially after shopping for groceries and handling the stuff I bring home.
Yes, even after peeing! After reading the morning newspaper, and even after typing on the keyboard to send out this column.
Social distancing may be wise and necessary, but I’m now of a mind that long-term avoidance of bad things starts at the lowest level of hygiene — washing the hands.