Monday, November 29, 2010

"TSA Luggage Searches & Infective Potential Due To Dirty Unchanged Gloves & Bad Technique" By Reverend Barbara Sexton

Dear Readers:
     First of all, let me say that I am in no way blaming any TSA shortcomings on TSA Officers alone...but also on those who train, equip, monitor and discipline them.
     The fact is that TSA Officers are, at present, not CERTIFIED nor can they be EXPECTED TO conduct body and luggage searches with any type of consideration for 'sanitation', 'hygiene' or 'good health practices'. 
     As far as we know for now, all they are required to do is 'wear gloves' and conduct their searches without hurting, spilling, breaking or losing anything.  We can't expect of them anything resembling 'aseptic technique' and that's just a fact...especially at their paltry salary level.
     In a perfect world, care would of course be taken to make sure that persons' bodies and belongings were examined under as 'sanitary' conditions as possible.  Yes, this takes longer and costs more, requiring 'regular glove changes', as well as the wearing of masks and perhaps other protective gear apparel by the examining TSA Officer.
     And let us not forget that TSA Officers are deserving of more training and HAZARD PAY if Officials are determined to 'stay this course' of unsanitary 'pat-downs' and luggage searches, as well as 'dubiously safe 'scannings'.
     But as it is today, how is one to know if the TSA person examining their person and luggage is not harboring some kind of respiratory pathogen-viral, bacterial or even more exotic?  We'd like to know that the TSA Officer is not sneezing and hacking all over our luggage contents, but how can we know?
     The fact is, even 'in the best of scenarios', we just can't!
     How do we know that a 'good sneeze' on our toiletries did not take place, thus contaminating our personal items destined for use on our skin?
     We can't!
     How do we know that a TSA Officer's dirty gloves--contaminated with staph or strep or worse from a 'previous toiletries check'--has not just 'contaminated' our undies, handkerchiefs and personal items? We can't! 
     'Used' and 'sticky' personal hygiene items, toiletries and cosmetics--we all have them in our little plastic bags.  But few realize what GREAT HARBORERS and potential TRANSMITTERS of microorganisms they also are.
     Or, maybe we do and, if so, it's time to remember it!
     Don't we tell our children and young people NOT TO SHARE lipglosses, lipsticks, mascaras, deodorants, hairbrushes, washclothes and the like, product preservative systems notwithstanding?  Yes, we do.
     Is the public, let alone the TSA, cognizant of the fact that many 'soaps', far from being part of the 'cure' for our microbial contamination issues, are actually HAVENS for some of our worst water-loving pathogens?
     I don't know if they do.  But the fact is that the water-loving and living Pseudomonas aeruginosa (which produces a blue-green discoloration to the flesh and nails it infects), for instance, has been found to actually live in and 'EAT' certain (liquid) soaps!
     Pseudomonas' notoriety stems from the fact that systemic infection with it is overwhelmingly fatal.  And it 'loves' soap.
     With the advance of science, humankind is astounded to grasp the significance of the vast ability of the tiniest forms of 'life' to hunker down and survive and even thrive in any number of substances we use every day.
     And this knowledge ought rightly reduce us to humility as we realize that organisms invisible to our naked eyes can bring us not only to our knees, but to our Maker. 
     Thus my prayer is that such 'humility' will compel us to consider that which we might not otherwise and I start 'here' by way of simple example:
     You've packed 'damp' swimsuits for 'quick travel', haven't you?  Maybe you gave your child's suit a 'quick soapy rinse', packed it in a plastic bag for a flight and thought nothing of it.
     But have you considered the consequences of dirty, unchanged, potentially contaminated TSA Officer gloves closely examining this 'damp garment', since it is 'out of the norm'?  Have you considered that a little 'soap' can serve as a culture medium for some bad bugs?
     Or maybe you've just packed that suit, still damp with some chlorinated pool water.  In this case, I ask, "You DO realize that that little bit of chlorine is useless as an antimicrobial in the event of gross TSA Officer glove contamination, don't you?
     Unless you literally 'disinfect' that suit post haste, it is a real health hazard. 
     In a forthcoming article, I will detail some effective and practical ways to 'disinfect' items that have been subjected to 'TSA Screening'.  If you've never given this much consideration before, you will now...or you should, anyway.
     I'm not suggesting that we all adopt what some call 'Howard Hughes Syndrome'.  I'm not advising that we get OCD when it comes to 'germs'.  But we must get realistic and practical.  
     What is 'good for the traveler' is ALSO 'good for the TSA Officer', I might add.  From the standpoint of sheer exposure, the group MOST at risk from luggage and body-handling 'woes' is not the public, but the TSA workers themselves.
     So we all must listen and we all must act. 
     When it comes to the realities of living and travel today, "These are not 'our parents microorganisms' at all".  Gone are the good old days when eating a peck of dirt in a lifetime would help assure a 'good immune system'.
     We've 'blown out' our immune systems via various pharmaceuticals, environmental conditions and lifestyle choices.  And... 
     We have many more pathogens (microorganisms that cause disease in humans and other animals and even in plants).  And...
     Not only are there more pathogens, but many of them have become more virulent, meaning their 'infectious capability' and potential deadliness have also increased. 
     Far from being 'panic talk', what I am saying here is long-overdue for public consumption, in my opinion.  I've personally never worked in a biology or chemistry lab which didn't work in close association with a microbiology unit and sometimes a virology unit, as well.
     Many of us have 'cross-trained' and for good reason in both academic and manufacturing settings.  And some of us will speak openly about things the public needs to know in order to make intelligent decisions.
     By now you Readers are aware that the  'traditional medical establishment' is loathe to speak openly about nosocomial (hospital-acquired) and community-acquired infections...especially since the line between the two has become increasingly 'blurred' in the last decade.  You'd better bet that hospitals and health care facilities of all sorts are very dirty places!
     Just ask any patient or family member who has been unfortunate enough to have suffered from an infection in a health care setting.  Or just ask an honest health care provider and they will tell you also.
     The time to address all this is now.  How fortuitous in a sense, the TSA situation is, if only because it forces all to take a good look at 'public sanitation issues'.  
     In this age we do well to be concerned about our 'global health'.  As all 'flu outbreaks' originate in Asia and migrate sequentially to Hawaii, to California and onward to the east coast per epidemiological studies (typically, but not always!) we see new 'patterns' emerging every day. LINK: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/
     Dengue Fever, for instance, despite a popular and misleading commercial to the contrary, is alive and well in Miami, Fl.  Here's a recent article I did on this, in fact: LINK: http://dearoneshealingministry.blogspot.com/2010/08/dengue-fever-redux-socio-medical.html    
     MISinformation dies hard, it would seem.
     Simply put, just because 'the public does not hear about it', doesn't mean that global patterns of disease spread are not morphing and changing before our very eyes, via the 'human vector'.
     You know what 'disease vectors' are.  Mosquitoes are one, as are birds and swine.  Vectors are, simply put, the factors by which disease is spread.
     And now, since 'man' is 'the most deadly predator', I am fearing that likewise, man in the end will be the 'deadliest disease vector' as well, a la 'the 'TSA Dirty-Glove Syndrome'.
     When we consider the natural and bioengineered microbial variants being discovered every day, we wonder how, with the status quo, we are to be safe in this 21st century.
For You In Christ,
Reverend Barbara Sexton
"The Biblical Biochemist-Where Science Meets the Cross"
http://www.dearoneshealingministry.blogspot.com/

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