A few weeks ago, something strange happened. A virus appeared on my computer. It wasn’t the appearance that was odd but rather the virus.
As you might expect, this wasn’t a computer virus but rather a real, honest to goodness virus that can cause measles. I’m not exactly sure how the virus managed to get itself a Twitter account, let alone a picometre-sized application device, but somehow it figured out how to gain access to social media and start spreading in an entirely new way. For the record, I’m betting the virus is from New York and happened upon the Bronx Zoo Cobra after it escaped and went on a slither about the city.
While I thought this was interesting, I gave it no real thought.
A few days later, @Norovirus starting following me. Soon after it was @Flu_Virus. Within a week, I was being followed by several more of these nasty germs, including @B_pertussis @N_meninigitidis and @V_zoster_virus.
At this point, I was getting a touch worried. After all, for the last 4+ years, I’ve been out in the public doing my best to inform people on how to stop the spread of these pathogens and how best to get rid of them on your hands and in the environment. I felt like they would have some bad cytoplasm that might eventually come to haunt me.
And sure enough…it happened.
The taunts were nice at first, explaining that my efforts were commendable but fruitless and that thanks to the anti-vaccination campaigners and those ‘rugged individualists’ who tend not to care about the fundamentals of hygiene, they were going to continue to spread and cause havoc. The so-called #pathogenposse was formed and ready to take control of our health.
Still, I paid little attention to what they were saying. Sure, I would poke back a little but it wasn’t like they could really make any kind of difference. Besides, humanity had been doing arguably in the war against infectious diseases over the last 50 years. All that was needed was some encouragement and perhaps an interview or two to keep people informed and engaged.
But then they started to back up their claims.
First, it was the measles outbreak in Minnesota.
Then there were the pertussis outbreaks in Missouri and Ohio.
The spread went abroad as meningitis in the UK sent several students to hospital.
And finally, the Los Angeles Lakers were dunked with chickenpox.
I couldn’t believe it. The germs were starting to do exactly as they had promised.
Within a few short weeks, these viruses had not only gone viral online, but they went viral in real life too. Soon, they were boasting their successes and even challenging authorities to stop them.
And “Germ Guy” was their sworn target and enemy.
With every infection, every spread, they taunted me. With every lack of hygiene or vaccine preventable action that occurred, I was mocked. To them, the “Germ Guy” was a failure, a mess, a useless human who would one day end up being infected and meet an indescribable demise.
I was completely disheartened. I felt like I had failed. The #pathogenposse had started to take over and the health of all humanity was at risk.
I started to contemplate whether there was anything that I could do. After all, I’m just one man, one “Germ Guy”. How could I compete will millions of these organisms spreading around the world. How could I stop their wave of morbidity and mortality? Sure, there was #handhygiene and #bodyecology (#corporealecology for the Canadians and Brits) but I had to be honest with myself: what could a hashtag that engaged and enabled people to stay safe really accomplish without the action of others? This was one fight that I could never win alone.
I couldn’t sit still. The anguish and doubt filled me interminably. I had to get out.
I wandered the streets alone, worried that I would never find an answer. The brink of tears always nearby. Maybe it was best to just hang up the suit coats and return to just being good ol’ Jason Anthony Tetro, lab rat.
And then, something miraculous happened.
As I turned a corner, a group of ladies, not many, about half a dozen, stood in front of me. They were dressed in bright shining garments, saris, and each of them had their hands open, almost inviting an embrace. One of them approached me, gently curtsying in front of me. I smiled, nodded my head, might have even said, “Hello,” but I was in no mood for a talk.
As she rose from her curtsy, she brought forth a small bottle of hand sanitizer and put it in my hands. I smiled and thanks her for it. As I used it, she did not wait for me to return it. Instead, she turned back towards her friends, took a few steps and then stopped. A moment later, she spun on her foot, clapped her hands and started what would be the beginning of my redemption.
Not just any dance, however. This was a hand hygiene dance. Intricately, they showed off every move for using a hand sanitizer. Their moves flowed effortlessly and never did the smile leave their faces. They continued into a routine, a magical sight of colour, choreography and caritas. The dance only lasted a minute but the fire inside continued for hours, even days.
But it wasn’t the dance that solidified my return. It was what they said afterwards:
“We are Team Hygiene!”
The tears finally came. I tried to hide them but it was to no avail. The answer had been right in front of me and yet I had never seen it. No single person is an island and in order to make things right, it takes a village…
Or in this case…a team.
I made phone calls, sent Emails, text messages and Tweets. Each time, the response was more positive than before:
YES! They wanted on board…
YES! They wanted to stay safe…
YES! They wanted to prevent infection…
YES! They wanted to prevent spread…
YES! They wanted to beat the #pathogenposse…
But most importantly…
YES! They wanted to be a part of #TEAMHYGIENE!!!
And so, today, my friends, my followers, and to those of you reading me for the first time, I ask you to join me. I invite you to share your knowledge of hygiene, including hand hygiene, safe food preparation, proper use of sanitation, vaccination, self-isolation when ill, and promotion of proper eating and nutrition habits! I encourage you to share articles, your knowledge, your findings, your personal and professional stories, and even your disappointments.
I want you to share and share alike…all in the name of #TeamHygiene.
None of us can battle the #pathogenposse alone and we should never have to feel alone. We are all together, individually, locally, globally in this fight and together, we can overcome them and make the world an even safer place.
I know you won’t let me down!
And I promise to do the same…