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The great controversy: To rinse or not to rinse?
The ugly truth behind the famous five-second rule
Deadly mistakes most Jamaicans make when cleaning.
Myth or science: The culprit of food spoilage
Canned foods: Inspecting for safety.

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Jamaica Health Tips Blog

General Health

The ugly truth behind the famous five-second rule

If you are a Jamaican, then the five-second rule or the three-second rule is a well-known food hygiene concept that you have probably heard of.  The five-second rule is simply picking up food after it has been dropped and thus exposed to contamination.  If the food falls within a five seconds window or less, then the food is considered safe to eat.  But is this customary practice a myth or fact?

According to a paper published in the journal of applied biology, five-seconds is way too long. Microorganisms adhere to food almost immediately when dropped.  After five-seconds, they found that the food had acquire anywhere between 150-8000 bacteria and if left for a minute the number will be ten times greater.
Considering it only takes about 10 bacteria of certain strain of salmonella to get you sick, you probably should think twice before eating foods off the ground. In most instances persons may think the floor is clean because it looks clean but remember we cannot see microorganisms with our naked eyes.

It’s important to note, that the ground is the ideal home for bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms. This is because the floor comes in contact with the bottom of our shoes. As was noted by the University of Arizona, 93% of our shoes are contaminated with fecal bacteria. This therefore means that foods that fall to the ground will instantaneously be contaminated with them.

Interestingly thou, there are studies that show that woman practice the five -second rule more than male as they are more familiar with the rule. Additionally, in some household it is only customary for the five second rule to be practiced in private or around family, however in social gathering, restaurants or when guests are around it is unacceptable.

Foods contaminated with microorganisms can result in sickness or even death. Make the necessary adjustment to only consume foods that are clean and wholesome. Remember your health is your responsibility, be wise about what you eat today.
 
Did you believe in the five second rule?

 

Deadly mistakes most Jamaicans make when cleaning.

As I seek to educate the public on critical topics such as cleaning and sanitization of utensils and equipment. I am always disappointed with the little they know about how to effectively clean. Many Jamaicans when asked how they would clean a dirty surface, will tell you they use bleach and soap to get rid of dirt. The shocking reality is, most cleaning agents contain ammonia and other chemicals, which when combined with bleach form very deadly and carcinogenic compounds.

A very common one is known as Chloramine; this chemical is a derivative of ammonia that is formed by the replacement of multiple hydrogen atoms with chlorine atoms. There are widespread reports of health problems from chloramines. Chloramine is a volatile gas that can result in death if inhaled in a confined space, like a shower, closet, or closed garage
Additionally, the mixing of certain detergent and chlorine will reduce its potency. This is because the detergent components become very unstable when they react to bleach and loses its emulsifying property. As for the disinfectant property of the chlorine, it will be less effective in killing some of the most common pathogenic microorganisms you find on the items you clean.

Have you ever experience a bubbling effect when you pour bleach into soap water? This reaction is as a result of mixing an acidic detergent with chlorine. The effects from such reaction are numerous and very severe.  Acids are present in glass and window cleaner, automatic dishwasher detergents and rinses, toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners, lime, calcium and rust removers, and brick and concrete cleaners. 

When a product containing acid is mixed with chlorine bleach, chlorine gas is formed.  If a person is exposure to Chlorine gas, even at low levels, it will irritate the mucous membranes and causes coughing and breathing problems.  In higher levels it may result in chest pain, vomiting, pneumonia and fluid in the lungs and at very high levels of exposure can cause death.
It’s not just ammonia and acids mixed with bleach that can be hazardous to your health.  Certain cleaning product that are high in alkalinity with highly acidic products are very caustic. These products can react violently, causing chemical burns. 

In conclusion, it is crucial that we stay away from mixing household chemicals and ensure we read our labels to see how we should mix them. We have to take our health seriously and it starts from the little things we take for granted on a daily basis.
Have you ever mixed cleaning detergent with chlorine bleach?

Canned foods: Inspecting for safety.

While many Jamaicans consider it to be a cheaper alternative to fresh food, canned foods have been a staple in many families’ diet around the world since the nineteenth century.  Once canning was perfected on an industrialized scale in 1813, there has been a steady increase in the variety of foods being canned. Canned foods are considered to be commercially sterile, as all microorganism are destroyed when the sealed can is heated to very high temperature. This is the reason canned foods have such long self-live.
It can be difficult to the untrained eyes to know when canned foods are unsafe and unfit for consumption. As a result, it occurred to me to discuss some basic methods Jamaicans can use to assess the safety and wholesomeness of their canned foods before they purchase them.

  •  Observation of outer appearance
Anormal can should possess a clean appearance, free from rust, dust, stains, holes, bulge and have slightly concave ends. Seams should be intact and free from leaks with label clearly showing the content of can, brand and the weight of the product. (e.g. Grace Corned Beef, 400g.)

  • Palpation
This is the process of applying pressure to one end of the can, if it flips back and return to its original position when release, then early stage of decomposition as started. This is known as a Flipper.
A springer is when pressure is applied to one end of the can, resulting in a distention to the other end that will not return to its original position when released. This is because the microorganism would have produced more gas in it, when compared to the Flipper.
A bulging can does not always means its content is decomposing. It could be that the can was inadequately vacuumed during the canning process, the can was overfilled during canning or there is a chemical reaction between the food and the can. This process is called hydrogen swelling.

  • Percussion
This is the process of tapping on the can to assess the quality of the food. If the can is sound, when tapped it will give off a dull note. On the contrary, if gas is in the can it will give off a higher pitch.

  •  Shaking
This method is only applicable with canned foods that are not prepared with any liquor (sauce) in it, e.g. canned corned beef. This process is done by shaking the product back and forth and listening for a watery sound. Hearing any movement or watery sound in a can signifies that decomposition has started and the food is not safe.
Canned foods can also deteriorate without showing any form of gas production in the tin. This is called flat sour and occurs when thermophiles (heat loving microbes) produce acid in the can but not gas. This is impossible to detect expect by opening the can.  Its very critical to note that this product should not be consumed as it is unfit for human consumption.

Despite canned foods are considered one of the safest food to consume, they can cause severe health implications or even death if consumed when they are not safe. 
 
Are you inspecting your canned foods for safety?

Top five things you must consider when grocery shopping at the food store.

As many Jamaicans venture week by week in the marketplace to purchase their grocery, very few are familiar with the profiteering business of the food industry. Most food places are seemingly focused on sales and profits, rather than ensuring that safe and wholesome foods are sold to the public. In this week’s health tip, we will be disclosing five food secrets you need to consider when grocery shopping.

Best before date
According to CBC News in 2015, best before date tells a consumer how long that food will keep its flavor and nutritional value. It doesn’t have anything to do with the safety of the food. On the other hand, raw meats, deli meats and soft cheeses should never be consumed pass their best before dates. This is because these high-risk foods have the potential to grow pathogens that can get us sick. 
Did you know, that there have been reports of operators tampering with best before dates? As noted by several food investigators online, staff from various food places have reported to have change the dates on whole cakes that have passed their best before date. These items are then re-packaged in smaller serving size with a new best before date. In addition, fruit tart is another food that have been reported to be re-surfaced with fresh topping and fruits then given a new best before date after they have gotten old and moldy.  This practice can be very dangerous, as it can result in aspergillus, a very dangerous mold remaining on the tarts and producing micro toxin which can be very fatal over time
.
Dented or swollen can products
Can products are normallydesigned with a protective sheeting inside it, the function of this protective layer is to create a barrier, so as to prevent the content of the can from coming in contact with the metal. Whenever a can gets a sharp dent, it may compromise its quality hence exposing the metal to the food. This could cause the can to rust hence creating pin holes in it and facilitating the entry of pathogenic microbes in the can. 
On the contrary, a swollen can could signify that the content of the can has been contaminated with Clostridium Botulinum. This microbe is a spore-forming anaerobic bacterium, which is found normally in the soil and on produce. This therefore means that during the harvesting and preparing of the food to be canned, Clostridium would have contaminated the food. Can foods that appear swollen should never be consume, as it may result in paralysis or even death.

Grounded and seasoned meats
It has been reported that there have been unscrupulous operators, who have disguised the staleness and oldness of meat by grounding fresh meats and stale meats together. Staled meats have also been reported to have been dipped in blood to increase its red appearance then re-labeled with a new best before date. The CBC news in 2015 has also stated that persons have seasoned old meat and sold it to the public to disguise its staleness. In most cases grounded and seasoned meats are sold at an increase price when compare to whole and fresher meats.
 
Two for one promotions or items on sale
Its very important to check dates on food items that are on two-for-one promotion or sale. This is because it could be that the best before date will soon expiry and operators are trying to get them out the food premises before they become stale and spoil.

Choose your items from the back of the shelf
Most food store practice a first in first out stock rotation method when stocking their shelves. This therefore means that the fresher foods are normally located at the back. Additionally, if shelves are stock from bottom to top with the same food items, the fresher foods are located on the bottom shelve. This is process is done to make the less fresher food more accessible to customer so as to get them out the food store and prevent spoilage.  
In conclusion, its very crucial that as consumers we make informed choices when we are purchasing foods. Inspect your foods carefully and check your label and dates. Remember your health is your responsibility.
 
Are you purchasing safe food in the marketplace?

Mosquitoes: Why are they attracted to us?

Ever wonder why mosquitoes are attracted to some people when compare to others? Many Jamaicans believed that if your blood is sweet, then mosquitoes will be more inclined to bite you more than others. With us having over 3,000 species of mosquitoes, only three are predominantly responsible for the transmission of diseases. These are the Anopheles, Culex and Aedes and some of the diseases that are transmitted by them are Malaria, Encephalitis and Dengue respectively.

Mosquitoes being so persistent and irritating at times, possesses an uncanny ability to sense our murderous intention and take flight before one of our fatal swats. However, before taking a blood meal, a mosquito would normally probe the surface of the skin, using sensory organs to find the perfect area to strike a blood vessel. It then injects its proboscis in your skin, releasing saliva in your blood vessel to prevent clotting and facilities the free flow blood. This is when its possible for this vector to transmit disease causing microbes in your body.
With that in mind here are a few reasons mosquitoes are more attracted to some people more than others;

High body temperature
Persons with high body temperature will be more likely to be bitten by one of these vectors e.g. pregnant women. Normal areas of our body with high temperature are our foreheads, neck, wrists and elbows. However, a person who has just finish some vigorous activity and is hot will have blood closer to the surface of their skin. As a result, the mosquito will use the heat to determined where blood is closer to the skin.

Carbon Dioxide
Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, therefore a person who breathes heavily, will cause the mosquito to hone in on them as it follows the steady flow of the gas. This is why you will hear them buzzing right at your ear line. So, as you exhale carbon dioxide through your nose, it travels at the side of the face along the ear line, where the vector follows the trail.

Sweat
As we indulge in various activities or due to an increase in our body temperature, the body will start to producing sweat to facilities cooling down. When ever we sweat there is an increase in the secretion of lactic acid through our skin. Mosquitoes are attracted to lactic acid and this will make you their prime victim.

Blood Type
According to several prominent Entomologists, mosquitoes are believed to be more attracted to a person with a Type O when compare to a Type A or Type B. it has also been deduced that persons with certain genetic are greater attractant to mosquitoes than others.
In order to protect yourself from mosquito bites, always wear mosquito repellant containing DEET and light coloured clothing to keep cool.

Are you protecting yourself from mosquito bites?

Hurricane Season 2018: The Top 5 Things you Must Do!

Hurricane Season 2018: The Top 5 Things you Must Do!

As we reluctantly welcome the 2018 hurricane Season, many Jamaicans are carelessly living day by day without a disaster preparedness plan. A hurricane can cause widespread devastation and catastrophic effects on not just lives and properties but also the economy. As mentioned in a post printed by AccuWeather.com, the official season begins June 1, 2018 and will end November 30, 2018. It is also predicted by many geologists that the season will be a very active one.
Therefore, planning and preparing are the only two things that will help you to be safe and resilient in the wake of a hurricane. The ability to quickly recover following a hurricane requires focus, preparedness, advance planning, and knowing what to do.
Against that background, here are a few things you must do to be prepared;
Check gutters, drainage and tall trees around your home.
 Clean all gutters and drains to ensure that there is no obstruction that could hinder the free flow of water during rainfall. Additionally, observe water flow around your house during rainy time, this will give you an indication of how high water will rise and if there is need for additional drainage. Cut down tall trees and over-hanging limbs that could cause damage to roof and house during high winds.
Caulk cracks and seams.
Using caulk to seal cracks and seams in wall, could save you hundreds of thousands during a hurricane. This will make your home impervious to water and protects your home other valuables during a heavy rainfall.
Evaluate the sturdiness of your roof.
Checking the roof of your home are among-st the first things you should do before the hurricane. This should take precedence, especially if your home has gone through a previous hurricane. The strong winds during a hurricane can wreak havoc on your roof, therefore checking for loose, missing or materials in disrepair are very crucial. 
Having a battery powered weather radio during a hurricane is imperative. Why? In most instances during a hurricane the electricity will go. As a result, having a battery powered weather radio will help you keep up to date on the news and weather reports.
Things such as can foods, other non-perishable food item and safe drinking water are a must have during the hurricane season.  Also having emergency equipment such as band aides, dressing items and antiseptic is very crucial just in case you need to treat a wound during a hurricane.
In conclusion, a hurricane is no joking matter, failing to prepare is basically preparing you and your family to be at great risk. Knowing where the nearest shelter is located and planning alternate routes to get there should be amongst some of the things in your disaster plan. Emergency number such as an ambulance services, the Police and the fire department are vital as well. Remember your health is your responsibility, so be prepared and get ready for this hurricane season.

Are you prepared for hurricane season 2018?


Indoor air pollution; the unexpected killer


 Over the past few months, the cries of many Jamaicans have been the sweltering heat and stifling humidity being experienced in our country.  As a result most persons are forced to stay inside, but could we be running from one health hazard into another? With indoor air pollution being one of the top public health issue on the WHO agenda, It’s critical that Jamaicans know that the air inside may put them at more risk than they believe.

 According to the WHO, 4.3 million people a year die from the exposure to household air pollution. In poorly ventilated dwellings, smoke from cooking, cleaning supplies like bleach and disinfectants, too high or too low humidity, recent remodeling, and burning of garbage around the home can increase level of toxic particles in the air. Recent researches have shown that exposure to these air toxins are high in women and children who spend most of their time in the home.

 As outlined in an article in the Jamaica Gleaner (February 2, 2014), “Consistent exposure to poor indoor air quality often leaves occupants with symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, sinus infections and asthma attacks”. In addition the air producing equipment such as the air conditions and fans will not do much good, as they only circulate the bad air inside. A study done by the MOH has reveals that there has been an increase in the number of individuals suffering from asthma, both young and old, whether they reside "in dust-prone areas or live in upscale residential communities". These symptoms can lead to dire implications and even deaths.

Now here are some simple ways to reduce indoor air pollution;

  •  Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors.
  •  Bring nature inside; NASA research has shown that indoor plants like fern, spider plant and Aloe Vera acts like an air purifier.
  • Use sliced lemons/lime and baking soda to eliminate bad odor in the kitchen rather than air fresheners.
  •  Plan remodeling (painting) during the spring time when you can open up your house to allow fresh air to come in rather than the colder time.
  • Remove garbage frequently from inside the home.

Remember the health of your family is in your hand; help them to be safe today by reducing air pollution in your homes.

 
How is the air quality in your home? 

Cockroach infestation and its public health significance

Cockroaches are one of the most repulsive and resilient pest encountered on a daily basis in a Jamaican home. These insects never seem to give us a break; they infest our furniture, laundry and most importantly our food. They normally become established in the home by an infested grocery bag(s), laundry or from simple wandering from outdoors. Cockroaches are nocturnal in nature and frequent premises where food is handled, as they like to live where they eat. During the day they will hide in cracks, crevices, voids in the wall and warm and moist areas in the home, e.g. sinks, drains, manholes, stoves, the back of the cupboard and in the refrigerator units.

Cockroaches are the type of pest that we should not ignore or take for granted. They are vectors known for numerous deadly diseases e.g. Dysentery, Typhoid, poliomyelitis and many more. These roaches are famous for crawling over faeces and other insanitary areas and then come crawling and feeding on our foods and utensils.

The four most common cockroach species that have been encountered in our island are the;

  • German cockroach (Blatella germanica)
  • American cockroach (Periplaneta Americana)
  • Brown-banded cockroach (Supella longipalpis)
  • Drummer cockroack (Blaberus giganteus)


The German cockroach may be considered to be the most successful and shows a greater resistance to insecticides as they are small and readily hid in cracks and crevices. In addition the female roaches will carry their ootheca for a long time (up to just before hatching). As a result, they may not be killed during the pest control process.
The first step you should take when dealing with a cockroach infestation is to keep your home clean and sanitary. Pest needs three things to survive; water, food and shelter and an insanitary environment provides all three.  The next step is to use a licensed pest control operator to implement the pest program or seek advice before you implement the same. This is very important because there is certain information that needs to be obtained before treatment begins and only a trained person will be competent enough. Adding to that fact, pest control chemicals are very poisonous and should be handled with caution therefore, a layman is not equipped to take on such risky task. A pest control program may include the use of baits hence, it’s crucial that adequate information is obtained from a train pest control worker. This is because the behaviour of the roaches need to be identified in order to know where you should locate your baiting station(s).

Do you currently have cockroach infestation in your home?

Ebola virus in Jamaica; what are public health officials doing?

 With the recent chaos on the media about the deadly Ebola virus, many Jamaicans seemingly are concerned with the lack of information and surveillance being conducted by the public health officials in our island. For this reason the Jamaica Health Tips Online team has seen the need to provide information to our fellow Jamaicans and the world that will help you better understand this disease.

 Ebola as outlined on the CDC website is a rare and deadly disease, it is known to affect humans and non-human primates for example; Monkey, Gorillas and Chimpanzees. There are presently five identified strains of the Ebola virus; Zaire, Sudan, Cote d’lvoire, Bundibugyo and the Reston (in non-human primates but not in humans).

 The first case of Ebola occurs in Southern Sudan in 1976 in a cotton factory. As reported by Dr Don Francis in a presentation at the University of Berkeley, California, he believes that the cotton was contaminated by urine of fruit bats in the area. As of August 8, 2014 it has been reported by several sources that there are over 3000 confirm cases with over 1000 deaths in the West Africa area.

Transmission Mode

  •  Human to human varies from; direct contact through broken skin  for example saliva, urine, vomit, blood and semen of an infected person) or through unprotected mucous membranes such as; eyes nose or mouth. Objects (like needles or syringe) used by infected person.
  • Butchering of animals infected with the Ebola virus.

The primary host is believed to be the fruit bats which infect other animals and by extension humans through butchering and the consumption of animals for food (bush meat).


Persons at high risk

  •  Health care providers e.g. nurses and doctors.
  •  Butchers
  •  Family and friends who are caring for infected persons.
  •   Funeral home workers.


Signs and Symptoms
  Fever, headache, chest pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, dry painful throat, rash, bleeding from the ear,eyes, nose and mouth, malanea (black tarry faeces) and desquamation (skin peeling). The symptoms may appear within 2-21 days after exposure, but on average 8-10 days.  

Prevention and Control 
  Practice careful hygiene, avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling of infected bodies, avoid contacts with bats, and infected animals and humans, education of the public and proper training of health care providers, isolation of infected persons, constant re-hydration of patient(s) maintenance of oxygen and blood pressure status in patient(s) and an active quarantine and surveillance system.

Treatment
 There is no known vaccine or medicine to treat the Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever. However, several patients have recovered from their illness by just treating any opportunistic illness and maintaining patient(s) electrolytes, oxygen and blood pressure level. 

Do you think Jamaican public health officials are prepared for the Ebola virus?
Source: CDC website and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCM3HWsIbDE  The 2014 Ebola Outbreak: Update on an Unprecedented Public Health Event .

Chikungunya (Chik)


Chikungunya is a viral disease that causes fever and severe joint pains. It is spread to human by bite of an infected mosquito. The aedes aegypti mosquitoes spread or pass on this virus. This type of mosquito also spreads the dengue virus.
 
Symptoms
The most common symptoms are fever and severe joint pains, often in the hands, wrist and ankles. Prolong effects includes Arthritis and disabling joints pains. In some cases, joints pains can last for several months and even years. Other symptoms include headache, backache, muscles pain, nausea, fatigue and rash.

Treatment
There are no medicines to specifically treat chikungunya or vaccine; however pain killers can be taken to reduce the symptoms. It is paramount to note that only paracetamol pain killersshould be taken. Other pain killers such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen and other anti-flammmatory drugs are not recommended as they may increase risk of bleeding.

Prevent Mosquito Bites
Mosquitoes which spread Chikunyunga bites during the daytime so;
  •  Wear light coloured clothing and cover your body as much as possible.
  •  Use mosquito repellents containing DEET on exposed skin. 
  •  Use mosquito coils and electric vaporization maths both in the day and night.
  •  Use mosquito nets · 
  •  Screen (mesh) your windows and doors.

Prevent Mosquito Breeding
The aedes mosquito breeds and lives in standing water in and around the home hence do your part to prevent them from breeding.

  •  Cover all open containers such as your drums, tanks, barrels, buckets.
  •  Get rid of all old tyres, tins bottles, plastic containers, coconut shells and anything in which rain water settles.
  •  Cover trash, punch holes in tins before placing them in garbage.
  •  Keep house plants in damp soil and avoid over watering plants.
  •  Empty and wash pets water containers as twice weekly.
  •  Debush over grown vegetation on your premises as frequently as possible.

N:B see your doctor immediately if you think you or a family member might have chikungunya 
Source: MOH brochure
Do you have measures in place to protect yourself and your family from Chikungunya?