Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Nanny State

Some time has passed since the latest E. coli outbreak in the UK. So this should cement my reputation as contemporary.

For those not aware, or who can't be arsed to read the Wikipedia entry linked above, escherichia coli is a bacteria, commonly found in the alimentary tracts (guts) of mammals. It is generally an harmless commensal bacteria, that is to say one that lives within its 'host', cheek by jowl, without causing symptoms.

However, certain subtypes can cause symptoms, usually those of food poisoning - diarrhoea and vomiting, but occasionally progressing to more serious complications, such as renal failure.

This is an over-simplification, but if you really want to know the ins and outs, the info is out there.

The point is, if you get shit on your hands, or anything else you might put in your mouth, you may ingest someone / something else's e. coli, and poison yourself.

I generally reckon it should be self evident that putting shit in your mouth is a bad idea. So, in case you were unsure is rubbing it in your eyes; but that's another story.

Certain groups of people DON'T realise this. Among them are the pathologically stupid, and children, who don't know any better. Animals also have a less than scrupulous attitude to their own, and other people's faeces.

So, it would seem to me, it stands to reason that if you stroke an animal, that animal might have been rolling it, rubbing up against shit, in one form or another. So, really, you should wash your hands afterwards. Children may not be aware of this, and should be encouraged, or indeed, forced, to do so.

I have nothing but sympathy for the latest victims of the e.coli outbreak. I am unsure as to how the farms related might be culpable. Not enough warnings? No handwashing facilities?

I suspect people living in towns have become inured to the idea that animals, living as they do, might be less than sterile.

What I find most interesting is the roller coaster attitude that the British press takes to incidents like this. When something awful happens - children hospitalised - the press virtually froths at the mouth looking for someone to blame, denouncing the authorities for not providing enough protection.

And yet, when steps are taken to prevent accidents - before they happen - the frothing diatribe is against the Nanny State, or Health and Safety Gone Mad!

You can't have it both ways. We have to take some responsibility, don't we?

As I said, I don't know what factors at the farms involved might have made it more likely that infection be passed on, might have made conditions more unsanitary, but I do know it's just good common sense not to put shit in your mouth, and I can't help but feel we shouldn't need to be told to wash our hands after stroking animals...

1 comment:

Kate said...

Had a wound culture from a sternotomy grow out E. Coli and lactobacillus-- now that's gross!