Jamaica Health Tips Blog
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
you purchasing safe food in the marketplace?
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 some of the diseases that are transmitted by them are Malaria, Encephalitis and Dengue
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;
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.
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
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.
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
Are you protecting yourself
from mosquito bites?
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;
gutters, drainage and tall trees around your home.
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
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
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.
you prepared for hurricane season 2018?
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.
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
- 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
- Plan remodeling (painting) during the spring time
when you can open up your house to allow fresh air to come in rather than the
- 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?
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.
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
most common cockroach species that have been encountered in our island are the;
cockroach (Blatella germanica)
cockroach (Periplaneta Americana)
cockroach (Supella longipalpis)
cockroack (Blaberus giganteus)
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.
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).
currently have cockroach infestation in your home?
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.
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.
- 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
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).
at high risk
- Health care providers e.g. nurses and
- Family and friends who are caring for
- Funeral home workers.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Mosquitoes which spread Chikunyunga bites during the
light coloured clothing and cover your body as much as possible.
mosquito repellents containing DEET on exposed skin.
mosquito coils and electric vaporization maths both in the day and night.
(mesh) your windows and doors.
The aedes mosquito
breeds and lives in standing water in and around the home hence do your part to
prevent them from breeding.
all open containers such as your drums, tanks, barrels, buckets.
rid of all old tyres, tins bottles, plastic containers, coconut shells and
anything in which rain water settles.
trash, punch holes in tins before placing them in garbage.
house plants in damp soil and avoid over watering plants.
and wash pets water containers as twice weekly.
over grown vegetation on your premises as frequently as possible.
see your doctor immediately if you think you or a family member might have
Source: MOH brochure
Do you have measures in place to protect yourself and your family from Chikungunya?