AAAHHHHCHOOOO! It’s that time of year again! The air outside is freezing cold; businesses shut their doors and windows, and crank the heat! This makes indoor conditions great breeding grounds for the spread of bacteria, viruses and illnesses, due to the favorable warm temperatures and ideal environment. However, even though both bacteria and viruses can cause sickness and increase employee absenteeism, they are very different in terms of traits, treatment and prevention.
Let’s compare the two:
|Microbe: single-celled microorganisms that exist in abundance in both living hosts and in all areas of the planet, such as soil, water, air, and animals.||Microbe: no cell structure and requires a living host to survive – They are 10 to 100 times smaller than bacteria.|
|Nature: Can be both “beneficial” or “harmful”||Nature: All viruses are harmful|
|Purpose: Beneficial bacteria help by digesting food, destroying & providing essential nutrients. However, harmful bacteria can cause infections.||Purpose: Virus causes illness in its host, which causes an immune response. Viruses can attack cells in the liver, respiratory system or blood.|
|Environment: Bacteria can survive in different environments, including extreme heat and cold, radioactive waste, and the human body for up to several months.||Environment: A virus can live on a surface for as little as a few seconds, to as long as a week, depending on the type of virus and surface. But unlike bacteria, viruses must have favorable conditions to thrive, and are very sensitive to the environment outside the host.|
|Growth: They can reproduce on their own and grow on a living (hands) or non-living surface (desk).||Growth: They can only reproduce by attaching themselves to cells, once inside the living host. They change the host cell’s genetic material from its normal function to producing the virus itself.|
|Treatment: Only antibiotics can kill bacteria and cure the infection or disease.
|Treatment: No cure. Only vaccines can build immunity to prevent or reduce likelihood of contracting illness. Once infected with a virus, the living host must have a strong enough immune system to survive the infection.|
|Diseases: Strep throat, E.coli, salmonella, Lyme disease, whopping cough, sepsis, diarrhea, urinary tract infections, meningitis, food poisoning, pneumonia, bronchitis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, staph.||Diseases: Hepatitis A, B & C, HIV, HPV, Conjunctivitis, Herpes simplex, Chickenpox, Influenza, Measles, mumps, polio, rabies, Common Cold.|
How are viral and bacterial infections spread?
- Coughing and sneezing.
- Touching or shaking hands with another person.
- Touching food with dirty hands.
- Touching contaminated surfaces.
- Contact with blood and bodily fluids, such as feminine sanitary products or needles that are contaminated with a blood borne virus, such a Hepatitis B or HIV.
- Contact with infected animals and pets, or insects such as fleas and ticks.
How to avoid infection:
- Wash and dry your hands thoroughly several times a day, especially before eating and after using the restroom!
- Avoid rubbing your eyes or nose after shaking hands with someone or touching any public surface, such as door handles or railings.
- Use hand sanitizer to kill germs in-between hand washing.
- Use surface sanitizing wipes to disinfect work spaces and surfaces, such as the telephone, keyboard, mouse and desk.
- Always wash utensils when preparing a variety of foods to eliminate cross-contamination.
- Properly dispose of feminine sanitary product in a no-touch sanitary disposal unit to eliminate the threat of infectious viruses that can be spread through blood and bodily fluid.
- Needles and syringes must be safely disposed into a designated sharps disposal container to prevent accidents from occurring and reduce the risk of exposure to a blood borne virus.
Protect yourself from the environment, while in public spaces and in your workplace during these winter months, to help you maintain good health all season long!