Thursday, March 22, 2012

New face mask inactivates flu viruses

Not much blogging has been happening amidst the rush of preparations for my son's birthday (how can he be turning two already?!), but I have been keeping an eye on flu-related news.

Yesterday a company called Medline put out a press release advertising their new face mask; it inactivates 99.99 percent of flu viruses. After a brief smile at the name, BioMask (which brings to mind the original working title of my novel: Biomass), I focused on the really interesting part. Instead of just filtering particles, the BioMask actually kills flu viruses. The following is a quote from the press release about how this works.

The Curad® BioMask™ works by using a combination of citric acid, zinc and copper — all powerful but safe ingredients. A hydrophilic coating on the outside quickly wicks droplets into and away from the outer surface. Viruses are inactivated on this outer layer by exposure to citric acid, which creates a low pH environment. The droplet then lands on the mask’s inner blue layer where influenza viruses are inactivated by copper and zinc, which are toxic to pathogens.
Testing included at least nine strains of flu, which were all inactivated within five minutes of contact. The makers also tout the minimization of cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is a big consideration in viral spread. If you touch a door knob after coughing or sneezing into your hand, others who follow can pick up whatever nasty surprises you left behind. And we all touch our face—most notably for transmission our eyes, nose, or mouth—an estimated 3,000 times a day. (As scarily illustrated in the movie Contagion.) Consider this another plug to wash your hands.

I can't really see the public adapting to constant mask-wearing, particularly without an imminent threat, but the BioMask should make a lot of medical personnel happy. 

All of this germ talk is yet another reason I'm happy to be escaping the child birthday party for one more year. We are going to to the zoo with family (no one can live in a bubble), and then we’ll head home for dinosaur cake (I'm baking/decorating) and quality time playing on son's new swing set. Of course, this proud mom plans to snap even more pictures of her growing boy.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The secret (and amazing) world of public health laboratories

My job position is so much of a mouthful that I am often met with blank stares when I answer a question about my work. Even the shorter version, my title of Information Specialist, doesn't have quite the same level of recognition as teacher or nurse.
In my case, Information Specialist means that I translate highly technical information in order to create and revise web pages and publications related to the work of our laboratory. For a look at the work I support, read the blog post from which I borrowed my blog title. This is one of those pieces of writing that immediately tweaks a sense of "why didn't I write that?" In this case I think that I'm a bit too close to the work, but I'm totally tickled that Kim Krisberg toured our laboratory and took the time to write an excellent blog post.

Walking around a public health laboratory is seriously cool.

Giant humming machines, rows of test tubes and small, round dishes containing specimens with hard-to-pronounce names, biohazard warnings and emergency shower stations, an egg incubator and liquid nitrogen generator, people in protective gear with bulky white hoods and face shields. Oh, and boxes with severed animal heads inside.

Click here to read more.