Health News Digest

December 29, 2014

High Tech–And Common Sense–To the Rescue…Against Infection

By Michael D. Shaw

While infection control is usually not at the top of most people’s dance cards, this year’s Ebola scare–along with suspicions that there are many more cases in the US than is being acknowledged–has suddenly made this topic much more timely. It doesn’t help that some have made the foolish choice to avoid vaccinations, based on all sorts of dubious pronouncements from “trusted” sources.

Sadly, there is never a shortage of infection control breaches in health care settings. However, superbugs have also been found in athletic environments, and less super pathogens, such as the mumps virus, are causing big problems for the NHL. Funny how a childhood disease, once thought to be nearly wiped out, is making a comeback among coddled athletes.

Certainly, athletic locker rooms are closed environments in which infections can be promoted, but what about space capsules? NASA has long been interested in antimicrobial textiles, given the added complication of no laundry in space. Innovative technology, including embedding fabrics with copper or silver, have shown promising results, and such methods have moved into straight health care applications, as well.

The mission of the Space Foundation—founded in 1983—is to advance space-related endeavors to inspire, enable, and propel humanity. The Foundation also recognizes partner organizations, which share its passion to promote space-related endeavors. One of the newest of these partners is Calgary, Alberta Canada based TIMEZ5 Global, Inc., manufacturers of what is touted as the world’s first physiological prayer mat. The product is also widely used as a yoga mat.

According to Kevin C. Cook, Space Foundation Vice President of Marketing and Communications…”It is the antimicrobial, which was adapted for use in space that is recognized as a Certified Space Technology. We’re pleased to have TIMEZ5 as partners in this exclusive space awareness program.”

The mat also boasts a unique 5-layer design, specifically configured to ease muscle pain or stiffness, joint aching or inflexibility, posture problems, and low energy levels.

Another widespread application of a NASA technology, combining improved hygiene with comfort, is the memory foam or temper foam. Used in such diverse settings as football helmets and comfort insoles, the product is perhaps best known as the foundation of mattresses and pillows. Such bedroom items offer the additional benefit of not supporting the growth of dust mites.

Notably, the weight of the average conventional mattress doubles after ten years due to dust mite infestation, and the weight of the average pillow increases 10% after one year. Nasty.

However, as exciting as high tech innovations might be, there is still a big role to be played by good old common sense. Learned recommendations regarding the prevention of superbug—and other—athletic-related infections always seem to come back to the basics…

  • Proper hand-washing
  • Not sharing hygiene supplies
  • Liberal use of bleach
  • Taking care around shared-use items and surfaces

Finally, we should make a pitch for food safety–especially at this festive time of year. Our CDC does a great job on this front. Some key points include:

  • Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate — Don’t cross-contaminate.
  • Cook — Cook to the right temperature.
  • Chill — Refrigerate promptly.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015!