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What the Heck are Super Germs?

“Germ” is a basic catch-all phrase used to describe things that can reproduce and may make us sick. For example, although they’re different, viruses or bacteria or disease-causing microorganisms may be called germs. In the simplest of terms, “super germs” or ‘superbugs’ are created when humans overuse antibacterial and antibiotic products to the point where they become totally ineffective.

Germs are very clever. If you smack germs down with say, an antibacterial, it will kill some and hurt others, but the germs will also learn and grow and adapt to said antibacterial. Then the germs become resistant to the antibacterial, to the point where nothing can hurt it, and I do mean nothing. Back in 2000 at the Emerging Infectious Diseases Conference in Atlanta, Georgia many dedicated researchers noted that, “Unfortunately, we believe that we can rid ourselves of bacteria when, in fact, we cannot. Instead, we should “make peace” with them. Although we need to control pathogens when they cause disease, we do not have to engage in a full-fledged “war” against the microbial world.”

In spite of warnings like this, unfortunately we do live in a world where many people have made it their personal cause to rid the world of germs, bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms. Many people are so scared of germs that they overuse toxic cleaning products, antibiotics, chemical soaps and other germ-fighting tactics in order to be hyper clean and safe — but really all this is doing is putting everyone at risk for larger, stronger germs that soon won’t be easily killed by anything. To sum up – trying to kill germs with chemicals and treating every little infection with antibiotics means you’re helping to grow stronger, smarter and 100% drug resistant germs and the next time you need to kill a particular germ, there may be no cleaner or medication in existence that will do the job.

+ Antibacterial Cleaning Products and Drug Resistance

+ Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance

+ Germs 101 for adults

+ Germs 101 for kids

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What the New Report Says About “Superbugs”

The new in-depth report looks at the many causes of antibiotic resistance and how the consequences affect everybody in the world. The problem, the report points out, is that coordinated action to halt overuse of antibiotics and antibacterials is, “Largely absent, especially at the political level, both nationally and internationally.” The report recognizes that antibiotics aren’t all bad and in fact have paved the way for unprecedented medical and societal developments – many modern day medical miracles, including major surgery, organ transplantation, treatment of preterm babies, and cancer chemotherapy would be impossible without effective treatment for bacterial infections. Scarily, the report notes that, “Within just a few years, we might be faced with dire setbacks, medically, socially, and economically, unless real and unprecedented global coordinated actions are immediately taken” to stop the overuse of antibiotics and other germ-fighters. Some key points from the report include:

  • There will be major rising costs when it comes to  caring for people in the “post-antibiotic era.”
  • The more the drugs circulate, the more bacteria are able to evolve to resist them.
  • Expert warn that if circumstances don’t change, death rates from bacterial infections “might return to those of the early 20th century.”
  • The general public needs to take more responsibility in proper use of antibacterials and public education programs should be rolled out.
  • The problem of drug-resistance has the potential to “affect how entire health systems work.”
  • In the past, drug development has been able to keep up the pace with evolving germs but that’s no longer true. In fact, super germs are developing much faster than the drugs needed to treat them.

Consider this frightening fact from the report:  “Rarely has modern medicine faced such a grave threat. Without antibiotics, treatments from minor surgery to major transplants could become impossible, and health-care costs are likely to spiral as we resort to newer, more expensive antibiotics and sustain longer hospital admissions.”

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Who is Overusing Antibiotics and Antibacterials?

Most everyone is overusing germ-killing tactics. Antibiotics are used in vast quantities in the food industry, such as within agriculture, fisheries, livestock operations  and more.  Vets and doctors prescribe too many antibiotics for many illnesses that could be treated without them. Plain old consumers are also majorly at fault, overusing toxic cleaners, antibacterial hand soaps and limiting their kids from ever getting dirty. Marketing companies are at fault as well. Turn on any television and you’re sure to see commercials galore for stuff like Lysol and other cleaners meant to “Make your life cleaner, safer and more sanitary” and people buy this hype up in droves. The result is a world that’s so overly sanitized that germs have been given free-reign to wreak drug-resistant havoc.

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Are Germs Actually Healthy?

Germs are healthy in one very significant way – you want small germs around so that larger, stronger germs can’t grow and attack you, making you sick or even killing you. Germs are also proven to be healthier in other ways though, such as:

  • Antibacterials do more than grow super germs. They can also cause allergies in children.
  • Surface germs on your skin help you avoid excessive inflammation after an injury.
  • The more “germy” your kid, the healthier he may be. A perfectly sterile life is no fun and even a danger for kids.
  • The popular Hygiene Hypothesis, which emerged in the 1980s, notes that when humans are too clean and when kids’ exposure to parasites, bacteria, and viruses is limited early in life, they face a greater risk of developing allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type-one diabetes during adulthood.

Germ-killing cleaners and antibiotics are also deadly harmful for the environment. Phosphates in dish washing detergents can cause massive algal blooms in our water system while triclosan, an antibacterial found in hand soap and other products, has been declared toxic to the environment in Canada and experts have urged the USA to do the same.  On top of that, when cleaners and antibiotics are dumped these chemicals end up in our water, soil, air and food supply harming habitats and also thus, doubling back to humans who have already been exposed.

+ The Healthy Dirt on Dirt (pdf)

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How You Can Fight Disease-resistance

No one is saying you should quit washing your hands or never ever visit a doctor again; I mean there’s a few paths you could take here. There’s zero hygiene or health care (bad idea); there’s hypochondria-minded hygiene and health care (super overkill); and then there’s proper hygiene and health care (yes, choose this one).  If you’d like to prevent the growth of super germs and keep your family healthier do the following:

  • Avoid any product with Triclosan. Triclosan is found in antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics, plastics, and other products, so read your labels.
  • Exercise and eat healthy – both naturally boost immunity without growing super germs. Add some healthy spices to your diet too. In fact, overall, live a healthy life – as much as possible. Getting sick lands you in the doctors office, or worse, the hospital – both great places to pick up germs.
  • Only take your kids to the doctor for serious issues so that they don’t pick up germs at the clinic.
  • The little things count! Teach your kids to cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough. Basic germ spreading prevention can go a long way.

+ Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work (and when they don’t)

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Learn Not to Panic!

Lots of people are really scared of germs. I have family members and friends who refuse to give up their antibacterial hand soap or bleach or paper towels because they’re quite sure if they do a rogue germ will strike them dead. While it’s true that there are some pretty deadly germs out there, the Mayo Clinic, WHO and other significant health organizations all note that MOST germs won’t significantly harm you. What will harm and even kill you are germs that can no longer be treated by any conventional medication. Practice panicking less. You can survive without antibacterials and antibiotics in most cases – even during cold and flu season. If you can’t get over your fear of common germs I highly suggest taking a basic microbiology class at your local community college. You’ll learn that germs are all around us, can’t be killed as easily as you think (nor should they) and it may help you come to peace with everyday germs.

Trust me, germs are everywhere. You can’t win. In a major war with germs the germs would no doubt kick some major human butt. That said, if you can control your germ panic and simply take basic precautions against them, you can seriously limit their super growth. Try not to worry and you and the germs can live happily together and when the need arises, you’ll be able to fight them efficiently.

+ Antibiotic resistance—the need for global solutions

+ Source