In the spring of 1997, I spent a wonderful day with Dr. Omar Amin in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Amin is one of the world’s most respected and sought-after parasitologists and runs Parasitology Center Inc in Scottsdale, Arizona.
He gave me a copy of his article ‘Understanding Parasites’ in which there was a sentence that always stuck with me: “A recent inspection of an expensive restaurant in Los Angeles showed that 100% of all employees (not just waiters) They had fecal matter under their fingernails.”
Fecal matter and disease (particularly parasites) usually go together. As our cities offer cuisine from increasingly exotic regions of the world, this leads to a higher incidence of parasite-borne diseases, especially if these regional foods are undercooked or even raw: Dutch herring, steak tartare, ceviche, sashimi, sushi, for example. The tapeworm is high on the list of ‘residents’ in these foods, as is the Anisakid worm.
A food handler with poor personal hygiene will likely increase exposure and risk of spread of pathogenic organisms. Years ago, kitchen staff wore gloves and hairnets when handling food. It seems they don’t do this anymore, although regular hand washing habits may be mandatory nowadays.
University of Gondar, Ethiopia
In 2003, 127 food handlers working in the canteens of the University of Gondar and Teacher Training College underwent fingernail testing. These cafes were selected because the mass provision of food is a likely source of infection transmission. Fingernail contents and stool samples were collected from the 127 food handlers. In addition to fecal matter under the nails, the following was found:
– Coagulase negative Staphylococci (41.7%), Staphylococcus aureus (16.5%), Klebisella species (5.5%), Escherichia coli species (3.1%), Serratia species (1.58%) , Citrobacter species (0.8%) and Enterobacter species (0.8%). %).
– Shigella species were isolated from stool samples of four food handlers (3.1%). None of the food handlers tested positive for Salmonella species and Shigella species with respect to the contents of their fingernails.
Fortunately, intestinal parasites were not detected in the contents of the nails, but intestinal parasites were detected in their feces:
– Ascaris lumbricoides (18.11%), Strongyloides stercoralis (5.5%), Entamoeba histolytica/dispar (1.6%), Trichuris trichiura (1.6%), Hookworm species (0.8%), Gardia lamblia (0.8%) and Schistosoma mansoni (0.8%). ) ); 1.6% of study subjects tested positive for A. lumbricoides, T. trichiura, hookworm, and Giardia lamblia.
It is clear from this and many other studies that food handlers are a potential source of infections. However, it’s not just food handlers. To give you an idea of where and how pollution occurs, here are a couple of lists.
The 10 ‘dirtiest’ jobs:
1. Teacher/daycare worker
2. Cashier (bank, post office, supermarket, fast food, etc.)
4. Animal Control Officer
5. Janitor, plumber
6. Computer repair (using dirty keyboard/mouse)
7. Doctor or nurse
8. Laboratory Scientist
9. Garbage collector
10. Meat packing house
Here are some of the dirtiest places you’ll hit on your day:
1. Supermarket trolley handle
2. Office keyboard (not yours) and mouse
3. The button of a public or office drinking fountain
4. Door handles: toilet, refrigerator and microwave in the office and home
5. Vending machine buttons
6. The kitchen sink in your house
7. Your toothbrush, if you leave it near a flushing toilet (always close the toilet lid!) and the toothbrush holder
8. TV remote control (hotels and home)
9. Anywhere around household pets (including litter boxes)
10. Escalator handrails
11. Buttons on ATMs, elevators, video game controllers
12. Gasoline pumps
13. Car steering wheels, especially with multiple drivers
Next time you’re out for a drink, think before you dip your fingers into the bowl of peanuts at the bar. Along with the nuts will be fecal matter and urine residue. Then, of course, there’s that lemon wedge in your drink:
“I worked in restaurants for years and this is what I saw. Lemons and limes were delivered and put in the fridge. When the bartender needed a handful of them, he would go get them by stuffing them into his apron. Then he would slice them into a cutting board and would put them in glasses and place them on the bar Customer #1 orders a beer and pays for the beer Bartender puts cash in the register Customer #2 orders a vodka and soda with a lemon. The bartender comes to the ice bin and fills the cup, grabs a lemon and squeezes the lemon into the drink. At no time does the water touch the fruit or his hands and this continues all day. Money, ice and fruit. Oh, and the occasional trip to the bathroom.”
Men generally have more germs under their fingernails than women, but more germs are found under artificial nails than under real ones.
Of course there is hope…
Viruses and bacteria are an integral part of our lives. There are billions of them in and around us. A strong and healthy immune system will usually take care of most of the daily threats we pick up from that dirty grocery cart or house pet, but being aware of this is also valuable.
Some facts about nails:
— Onychopathy is the study of the fingernails and toenails.
— Nails are essentially dead cells that are made of a protein called keratin, the same substance as our hair. We’d get by just fine without them, but they’re great for helping us do tricky things like gripping things better, texting, and scratching ourselves. They also absorb some of the stress that the tips of the finger bones would have to bear.
— Nails grow faster when you’re young, faster on your most active hand, and more in summer than winter. They also grow faster in pregnant women.
— Dry nails? Just drink more water.
We have one last health note…
Try not to drink directly from aluminum cans. If you buy canned drinks and take them home, wash the lids as they may contain a virus called leptospirosis.
There is a lot of fear mongering on the internet about people dying from drinking from unwashed cans. I’m not sure about the accuracy of that, but if there’s any truth here, it would be because the victim had such a weakened immune system that it offered little to no resistance to invading bacteria.
Tests have shown that some aluminum cans contain dried rat urine containing Leptospira i. The cans are typically stored in rat-infested warehouses and delivered directly to retail stores without cleaning. Just so you know.
Let’s keep exposure to a minimum.