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November 9, 2006

BehindTheMedspeak: Handler Anti-Germ Hook


Stacy Weiner wrote about this new device in the "Claim Check" feature in yesterday's Washington Post Health section, as follows:

    Portable Germ Fighter?

    You scrub your hands thoroughly after using the airport bathroom but then — cue scary music — you turn off the faucet. Holy microbes! Now you've risked recontamination, say the makers of the Handler, a new palm-size product designed to keep your fingers off such germ-ridden surfaces as ATM keypads, light switches and, of course, the doors and faucets of public restrooms. Released at the press of a button, the Handler's two-inch hook pulls open doors weighing up to 60 pounds and pushes paper towel levers just like your own digits, according to its manufacturer, Maker Enterprises in Los Angeles. For $10.95, claims www.handlerusa.com, the device lets you avoid surfaces befouled by someone's "coughing, blowing their nose and touching their mouth and other more private parts." Yum.


    But does it really work? To a degree. Common colds and intestinal ailments can result from touching the microorganisms found on surfaces. That's because it's a short ride from our fingers to our eyes, nose or mouth and into our bodies, where the microbes disrupt normal cellular functioning. But what about germs that accumulate on the Handler itself? Paul Metzger, one of the company's founders, says the product's microscopic silver particles kill most germs — including 98 percent of one of the hardiest strains of staphylococcus — almost immediately. That's possible, concedes William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Still, Schaffner doubts that the Handler can shield you from most germ-borne ills.


    All washed up. Inanimate surfaces such as toilet seats play only a minor role in disease transmission, explains Schaffner. He estimates they account for no more than 10 percent of common illnesses. "It's not a highway of transmission," he says. "It's a little byway in the woods." The best defense is washing your hands or using an alcohol-based hand gel. Adds Schaffner: The greatest risk of catching something comes from person-to-person contact, such as a handshake, because germs love the warm, humid climate humans offer. And no Handler, it seems, can handle that problem.


The way I see it, the main determinant of how vulnerable you are to infection is how much of your own hand-to-face — be it eye, nose, or mouth — transmission occurs.

All three sensory end-organs — for sight, smell and taste — are up front and out there for a reason — namely, to give their respective brain inputs maximum information.

With signal comes noise, in the form of potential disease transmission.

Wash your hands, keep the signal, dampen — as it were — the noise.

But if you insist, hey, it's your money.

In White/Grey (above) or Black/Silver (below).



November 9, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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I read elsewhere that fear of germs is SOMETIMES not really about the fear of illness but rather the fear of the world and the people in it. Some germophobes live in filth, but it's their OWN filth, not a stranger's.

Posted by: Al Christensen | Nov 11, 2006 9:25:14 AM

This seems like it would be great for public restrooms and those filthy airplane bathrooms that they never really clean.

Posted by: Mark | Nov 10, 2006 3:01:07 PM

Go to the Kroger Flautist. You are just as safe there as I am here. Without the wipes. I do sound a wee bit crazy about the urinal, I know. I cannot help it. I have had three sons and not one of them will leave a "mess" in the bathroom. As some of the men will do here for me. My sons were taught how to clean up after themselves. I guess I am expecting too much from people to take care of themselves and wash their hands after using the facilities or wiping a snotty nose?

Go ahead kiss the cat or hug the dog. I do. They are almost cleaner than us. And they have no other choice than to leave their "presents" out in the open. Actually if I could get past their smell and lost hairs I would be almost inclined to have them in the house with me.

Posted by: Rhonda | Nov 10, 2006 1:24:11 PM

I bet Howie Mandel has this.

Posted by: jennie | Nov 9, 2006 4:22:46 PM

Jeez. I need to go to the Kroger but I think I'm just going to stay here and try not to touch anything. I wonder where this CAT has been today? Or what IT has touched...or licked (shudder)... And I was just in there fooling around with its ears and kissing on it and bonding with it and stuff. And if I go the Kroger, what might someone have been doing before they fondled a navel orange that I might buy, or what snotty-nosed child might have wiped its latest nasal haul on the celery I might decide to purchase, unaware of its history?

My father always used to say "wash off the big chunks and keep your fingers out of your eyes." Sometimes I think worrying and obsessing about this stuff paves the way for more illness than anything else does.

Posted by: Flautist | Nov 9, 2006 2:22:39 PM

Well I can tell you with working in an all men environment that this contraption will NOT work. I come with my handy dandy Lysol wipees and wipe the heck outta everything I touch. Doorknobs, Toilets, sinks, phones, desks, faucets etc etc. I do not understand for the life of me why and how a male doesn't GET IT that crap on the toilet seat doesn't just clean itself?? I know I am NOT their mommy but I cannot even begin to tell you how many of them will do this and think it wasn't them??? I'm really seriously thinking of making or inventing a Lysol Wipes glove thingy just to put on my hands so I will not get into a panic because I forgot a wipee after one of the guys decides to leave a lovely present behind. ...hehehe

Don't mind me I'm having a bad week.

Posted by: Rhonda | Nov 9, 2006 1:50:27 PM

But don't people who avoid germs, ironically, set themselves up to be more vulnerable to infection since their ammune systems haven't developed as many antibodies?

Posted by: Al Christensen | Nov 9, 2006 12:50:08 PM

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