Are viral outbreaks on the rise in hotels, restaurants and schools?
Las Vegas (May 28, 2004) - In the 1950s and 1960s the term "sick ship didnt even exist.
During the 1960s and 1970s elementary school closings were almost unheard of. From the 1950s through the 1970s food poisoning was generally identified with E. coli bacteria found in poultry and meat products and it generally affected only a few people at a time.
Then, in 1984, 432 police officers in Ontario, Canada succumbed in a salmonella food poisoning outbreak. Hepatitis-A outbreaks started to become more common in the mid 1980s as 100 to over 600 restaurant customers at a time started to contract the virus. Salads, fresh vegetables and sandwiches were identified as the sources of the virus. Then, the 1990s ushered in the term "sick ship syndrome, as hundreds of passengers at a time on Princess, P&O and Disney cruise ships succumbed to Norwalk Virus outbreaks. Last year SARS took the headlines as an obscure and formerly unknown virus spread from a rural, eastern China outpost to major cities throughout the world, almost overnight. Today, schools around the country are closed for days to weeks at a time while bioremediation teams wearing "bunny suits and breathing through gas masks purge buildings of invisible, odorless viruses that easily escape detection.
In years past, people living in cities and small towns shared the same bacteria and viruses within their own communities. The residents developed immunities for common local germs. Newcomers would suffer diarrhea and upset stomachs for a time as they adjusted to the new environment. Then, the advent of cheap air travel, monster hotels and cruise ships where thousands of vacationers and business travelers could be packed together as tight as sardines made it possible for local germs to be carried to distant cities and countries. Theme parks and convention centers began hosting people from all corners of the world who each brought their own germs, overnight, into contact with thousands of other people who did not share the same antibodies.
Hepatitis-A, the Norwalk Virus, Fecal Coliform and Salmonella are among the viruses that reproduce in the gastrointestinal tract and are excreted into the air when a toilet is used. One infected person, using a restaurant toilet, can cause a virus to spew into the air and land on towels, tissues, counter tops and handles throughout the bathroom. A food handler using the same bathroom can then get the virus on their hands and transfer it to salads, sandwiches and other foods served cold or uncooked, where it can survive for hours. From there, customers consume it and take it with them. In a hotel, an infected guest can leave a virus on towels and hard surfaces where it can live for several hours, until another guest, with no resistance to the virus, checks in and uses the same bathroom. Restrooms on airplanes, in restaurants, hotels, theme parks and convention centers are shared by thousands of travelers, each subject to infection.
A new product, the Miracle Seat, helps control escape of foul odors and harmful viruses from toilet bowls. "Its the most significant advance since indoor plumbing. Many harmful germs are vacuumed from the toilet bowl before they get into the air, said a spokesman for the Miracle Seat Company. An outbreak could be just a matter of time and, while the Miracle Seat is no guarantee, it is a precautionary investment that just may protect a hotels or restaurants reputation and the health of its guests.
The Miracle Seat, a vented toilet seat, has proven to be effective and reliable. Satisfied customers include homeowners, restaurants, clinics and small businesses. It is available for $259 online at www.miracleseat.com.