Why We Wash Our Hands

Thank you, Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur

We’ve all been raised to wash our hands every time we get sick, cough or sneeze. Wash your hands before dinner. Wash your hand after you’ve been to the bathroom. We all know this and we all know why–germs love to stick to you. They are spread through poor hygiene as well as touch. Another carrier of germs are your pets. They get themselves into all sorts of places and get exposed to all sorts of things, this makes it very easy for them pick up all sorts of germs. Washing them regularly may be a chore, but it stops the spread of germs and decreases the likelihood of them bringing ticks and other nasty little critters into your house.

All this is very simply treated by proper hygiene and washing your hands after handling dangerous substances, as well as maintaining a clean house. When treating pandemics we use bio-hazard outfits and gloves as well as other means by which we can attempt to stop the spread of the specific pandemic we are fighting. If an individual is suspected of being exposed to this particular virus, they are immediately tested and quarantined as a precaution. All these measures are to prevent further spread of the contagion. Various tests would then be run to identify the virus causing the pandemic, but all that would be taken care of by the CDC in conjunction with the WHO.

Things weren’t always handled with such precaution, though, in the earlier years of medicine. In 1861, Louis Pasteur published a theory that would become known as his ‘germ theory’ in which he stated that bacteria caused viruses. Back then, this same theory was only believed by one other scientist, Robert Koch. Robert Koch, a German doctor, pioneered this same belief that led Pasteur to his theories. However, it was only in the late 1900s that Koch started isolating the bacteria that caused viruses, such as TB and Cholera. These two men, as well as a very small segment of other scientists, believed that diseases were caused by micro-organisms or, as Pasteur had already called it, germ theory.

In those days scientists believed that an illness or disease was caused by an internal problem. It was also believed that a disease could also be caused by bad blood, causing a practice known as blood-letting. These beliefs along with poor hygiene by the general public and the fact that a doctor would move from patient to patient without washing his hands, just helped to further spread disease and cause the death of the patients they were meant to be helping. A doctor would handle a dead patient and then carry the bacteria to his next healthy patient. Pasteur, however, had a different approach to this, he insisted that any doctor, nurse or attendant who worked in his hospital was to practice proper hygiene and wash their hands after dealing with each and every patient. This practice alone increased the survival rate and general well-being of his patients. This all started because of a situation in the French silk industry, where Pasteur was able to identify two micro-organisms that were causing a blight on the silkworms in the factories.

Before the discovery of germ theory, in the Middle Ages, people believed that illnesses were caused by foul odors or “evil spirits”. All these beliefs, we know to be incorrect, caused many deaths among the common folk. A lot of these people rarely saw their children survive to adulthood as something as insignificant as a cold could kill their children and the elderly. In early London, filth was thrown out of windows. Anything from dirty bathwater to human excrement was simply tossed onto the sidewalk out of buckets, this, in turn, caused what became the Black Death. This vicious plague caused the death of 25 million people all across Europe in the 14th century. People blamed the infected rats, but if we look at it with hindsight, we are able to see that they provided a perfect breeding ground for these infected rats to spread and infect as many people as they did.

It has been almost a century and a half since these two great men of science discovered that tiny micro-organisms could cause such vicious diseases. Because of Robert Koch, we now have four criteria by which we can identify a virus. These we call ‘Koch’s Postulates’ and to this very day they are still in practice.

Modern day pandemics can be caused by many things, but with all our knowledge from the giants of science that have walked before us, we are now able to look back with hindsight and use their knowledge to identify and treat patients. These pioneers of germ theory were often called crazy and sometimes sent to asylums for believing what we know to be fact today. We owe these men many thanks as they have saved our lives through their discoveries.

Next time you wash your hands with soap or take a shower, think of men like Koch and Pasteur who taught us what proper hygiene is. Take care of yourself when you are ill and take your medicine, it’s a blessing that we have thanks to brave men who defied everything they had been taught and walked where no other scientist had. We are so fortunate to have doctors who help us when we are sick, give us medicine and tell us what’s wrong. God bless these men.

Always remember, my avidReaders, that when doctors fail us, we have a Heavenly Father, who knows our bodies better than any doctor. Turn to Him for healing and He will undertake for you.

God bless you all.


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