Author Archive for: dnamarketing

More Cruise Line Norovirus Outbreaks: What Are They Missing?

If you follow the news at all, you know there have been several cruise ship outbreaks that led to truncated voyages over the last few weeks due tocruise ship outbreak of norovirus Norovirus. Some new records have been hit, with one ship reporting more than 700 cases. After returning to port, infected passengers were advised to go to local hotels and quarantine themselves until they were better.

If you’ve never been on a cruise, they are wonderful (sans an outbreak, of course). You get an entire vacation packaged with room, food, excursions, activities, entertainment, etc. in one, easy-to-schedule price— and you typically see a variety of amazing destinations in only a few days that would otherwise be a logistical feat (or nightmare) to schedule on your own.  I say that because I’m a big fan, so this post isn’t intended to deter you from a cruise. It might lead you to do a little more research on the cruise line you choose, however… and hopefully save you a virus.

Crisis Communications in Full Swing

After the first outbreak was reported, I actually communicated over social media with one woman who was on the ship with the largest number of cases. She said the staff were standing in front of the buffet lines with a pump bottle of hand sanitizer, and other staff members were spraying and wiping a sanitizing chemicals wherever they could. They looked calm on the outside, but it was clear they were all a bit panicked on the inside… they just didn’t know what else to do.

Then I saw classic PR crisis communications in full play (and I can’t blame them): the cruise line brought in a solution for spraying sanitizer, and posted an official response with plenty of pics next to the new machines and the company providing the services.  And yes, that’s what Level4 Bio offers (it wasn’t us… yet!), but there are some big differences… which I’ll come to in a bit.

So What is Norovirus, Really?

In laymen’s terms, it’s the winter vomiting bug, and a common cause of diarrhea (gastroenteritis). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Noroviruses cause 19-21 million infections, 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths every year in the United States. Norovirus infection is sometimes misnamed “stomach flu“, however, Gastroenteritis is not associated with flu, a respiratory infection.

Norovirus infection outbreaks are more likely to occur in crowded or closed communities, such as cruise ships, long-term care facilities, prisons, overnight camps and dormitories – places where the virus can spread rapidly from human-to-human.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the most common causes of human norovirus infections are contaminated foods, shellfish, ready-to-eat foods that were handled by infected workers (salads, ice, cookies, fruit and sandwiches), or any food contaminated with the feces or vomit of an infected person.

Cruise ship sanitizingAnd What Are the Cruise Ships Possibly Missing?

I saw several articles before the holidays commenting that this might be a tough virus winter… but ships are being hit pretty hard… imagine 700+ people on a self-contained vessel all vomiting and chained to the commode.  There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.  Cleaning staff are entering rooms, cleaning as best they can, but spraying and wiping with rags, which can often cause more cross contamination and spread the virus further.

As far as I can discern (and from my exchanges with passengers), they are using hand sanitizers, and some other sanitizing chemicals (possibly water-based) and spraying / wiping high traffic areas.  I’ve watched videos on this new sanitizing spray service that one cruise line is promoting and while spraying their sanitizing chemical, they have to put large trash bags around TV’s and other electronics.

I also happen to know their chemical is extremely noxious, and not safe for anyone to be around soon after a service. I would like to warn that cruise ship, but I’m not able to reach anyone to get a message into the right person. Trust me, I’ve been trying. They might be trading one problem for another. And clearly from that company’s own promotional videos, they can’t sanitize machines, metals or fine electronics… which on a cruise ship, equates to a lot of areas that are likely being completely missed, but that are high traffic areas:

  • Slots / gaming machines in casinos
  • In-room electronics such as phones, TVs
  • TVs and phones in public access areas
  • Buffet tables and food-warming heaters
  • Entire kitchen facilities
  • Computers and control machinery in staff areas
  • Elevators and staircase rails
  • Room doors and electronic key entry devices
  • Metals such as vents, fans, doors, etc. in common areas and public access restrooms
  • and probably much more

Many viruses prefer warm areas, so electronics are a common breeding ground and therefore a common transmission point. And with so many people in close quarters and roaming the same acres of ship as 2000+ other passengers, there’s an endless list of places where noxious, water based chemicals simply cannot do an effective job.

Clearly, much is being missed.

The Bigger Picture

Hand sanitizers are a very small part of the solution and clearly in all of these latest cruise ship scenarios, weren’t terribly effective in containing the virus. And we’ve been posting social media and notes to the CDC for years, yet they still recommend hand sanitizers, and this:

Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces 

After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces. Use a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1000–5000 ppm (5–25 tablespoons of household bleach [5.25%] per gallon of water) or other disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

To have an effective infection control protocol, you need to sanitize entire areas – not just where passengers are ‘expelling.’  The operative part is highlighted in red… “Use a chlorine bleach solution with water…”   This isn’t an EPA / green solution.  You can’t put chlorine or noxious chemicals into close, crowded quarters like a cruise ship (or anywhere, in all honesty) or risk them going into the ocean.

The real solution is the last part of their recommendation: “OR OTHER DISINFECTANT” — the problem is, people don’t know what else is available that can address an entire cruise ship from floor to ceiling, top to bottom and everywhere in betweenAnd a solution that can completely saturate metals, machines and fine electronics without damage or corrosion.

An Alternative to Consider

It’s our blog, so yep – we’re going to say it. Here are some great reasons why the cruise ships should give us a look:

  • We can completely saturate metals and fine electronics absolutely anywhere (and any material, for that matter) without any damage or corrosion.
  • Our solution is lab tested to effectively kill a long list of viruses and bacteria including Norovirus on any surface
  • Our sanitizing formula is EPA approved, and our machines are FDA registered.
  • Our patented technology atomizes our chemical formula and dries in minutes – leaving areas clean and ready for almost immediate use.
  • There are absolutely no noxious chemicals, no rinsing, no wiping, no chlorine bleach or other harmful chemicals that are harmful to people or the environment.

We started Level4 Bio to help prevent outbreaks and save even 1 life from the often devastating effects of harmful pathogens. My sincere hope is that many people read this and pass it on, and ideally, it gets to the right decision makers at the cruise ship companies so they can consider an alternative, since clearly the current sanitizing techniques are not quite doing the job.

I welcome your comments, and if you’re headed on a cruise soon, I wish you a safe and healthy voyage!

Jeff Halmekangas, President, Level4 Bio

Jeff Halmekangas
Level4 Bio



Understanding E-Coli (Escherichia coli)

Escherichia coli (abbreviated as E. coli) are a large and diverse group of bacteria. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses. Still other kinds of E. coli are used as markers for water contamination—so you might hear about E. coli being found in drinking water, which are not themselves harmful, but indicate the water is contaminated. It does get a bit confusing—even to microbiologists.

Who gets E-Coli infections?

People of any age can become infected. Very young children and the elderly are more likely to develop severe illness and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) than others, but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of STEC infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/less than 38.5˚C). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.

What are the complications?

Around 5–10% of those who are diagnosed with STEC infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Clues that a person is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. Persons with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems. Most persons with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.

Should an infected person be excluded from school or work?

School and work exclusion policies differ by local jurisdiction. Check with your local or state health department to learn more about the laws where you live. In any case, good hand-washing after changing diapers, after using the toilet, and before preparing food is essential to prevent the spread of these and many other infections.

How long can an infected person carry STEC?

STEC typically disappear from the feces by the time the illiness is resolved, but may be shed for several weeks, even after symptoms go away. Young children tend to carry STEC longer than adults. A few people keep shedding these bacteria for several months. Good hand-washing is always a smart idea to protect yourself, your family, and other persons.

What is the best treatment for STEC infection?

Non-specific supportive therapy, including hydration, is important. Antibiotics should not be used to treat this infection. There is no evidence that treatment with antibiotics is helpful, and taking antibiotics may increase the risk of HUS. Antidiarrheal agents like Imodium® may also increase that risk.


What is MRSA?

Knowledge is Power: Understanding the Facts About MRSA

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics called beta-lactams. These antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections. More severe or potentially life-threatening MRSA infections occur most frequently among patients in healthcare settings.


MRSA in healthcare settings usually causes more severe and potentially life-threatening infections, such as bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, or pneumonia. The signs and symptoms will vary by the type and stage of the infection.

Skin Infections

In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections that may appear as pustules or boils which often are red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. They often first look like spider bites or bumps that are red, swollen, and painful. These skin infections commonly occur at sites of visible skin trauma, such as cuts and abrasions, and areas of the body covered by hair (e.g., back of neck, groin, buttock, armpit, beard area of men).

How MRSA is Spread in the Community

MRSA infections, as with all staph, are usually spread by having contact with someone’s skin infection or personal items they have used, like towels, bandages, or razors that touched their infected skin. These infections are most likely to be spread in places where people are in close contact with others—for instance, schools and locker rooms where athletes might share razors or towels.

Factors that have been associated with the spread of MRSA skin infections include: close skin-to-skin contact, openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions, contaminated items and surfaces, crowded living conditions, and poor hygiene. People may be more at risk in locations where these factors are common, including:athletic facilities, dormitories, military barracks, households, correctional facilities, and daycare centers.

Risks from Contaminated Surfaces

MRSA is found on people and not naturally found in the environment (e.g., soil, the ocean, lakes). MRSA could get on objects and surfaces outside the body if someone touches infected skin or certain areas of the body where these bacteria can live (like the nose) and then touches the object or surface. Another way that items can be contaminated with staph and MRSA is if they have direct contact with a person’s skin infection. Keeping skin infections covered with bandages is the best way to reduce the chance that surfaces will be contaminated with MRSA.

Even if surfaces have MRSA on them, this does not mean that you will definitely get an infection if you touch these surfaces. MRSA is most likely to cause problems when you have a cut or scrape that is not covered. That’s why it’s important to cover your cuts and open wounds with bandages. MRSA can also get into small openings in the skin, like the openings at hair follicles. The best defense is good hygiene. Keep your hands clean, use a barrier like clothing or towels between you and any surfaces you share with others (like gym equipment) and shower immediately after activities that involve direct skin contact with others. These are easy ways to decrease your risk of getting MRSA.

Hospitals and Healthcare Settings

Healthcare procedures can leave patients vulnerable to MRSA, which is typically spread in healthcare settings from patient to patient on unclean hands of healthcare personnel or through the improper use or reuse of equipment.

Hands may become contaminated with MRSA by contact with:

  • colonized or infected patients;
  • colonized or infected body sites of the personnel themselves; or
  • devices, items, or environmental surfaces contaminated with body fluids containing MRSA.

Appropriate hand hygiene such as washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub can prevent the spread of MRSA.


Ringing in the New Year and a Safer, Healthier 2012

As we ring in the new year and count our blessings, it’s hard not to look back on a 2011 filled with some unexpected outbreaks and a rise in hospital acquired infections. We just launched Level4 Bio in November, 2011 and since then, I’ve become laser focused on watching the headlines for such news. I’m shocked by the statistics, but with every headline I see, I’m even more excited about how Level4 Bio will help save lives and save businesses from the devastating effects of the world’s worst germs.

Why Did We Call it “Level4 Bio?”
Every pathogen is categorized based on a ‘biosafety level,’ which is the level of the biocontainment precautions required to isolate dangerous biological agents in an enclosed facility. The levels of containment range from the lowest biosafety level (BSL-1) to the highest at level 4 (BSL-4). These levels were developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and created to communicate the relative danger to the surrounding environment. The same classification levels are also used by the European Union.

While most of the foodborne, airborne and surface pathogens encountered in the U.S. fall into the BSL 1, 2 and 3 levels, our goal is to help eliminate and prevent them all, including the Level4 germs wherever they hide and breed. Yep, it’s a lofty goal, but people who set out to change the world should have lofty goals in mind. Whether we help one, or one hundred million — our mission is clear: to protect people and business from the world’s worst germs.

Cheers to a Healthier, Safer 2012
So check back often and watch for updates from us across our site, other related blogs and on our social media pages for more as we launch and build the business.

From the team at Level4 Bio, we wish you a safe, happy and healthy New Year!

Level4 Bio Launches to Help Fight Airborne and Surface Pathogens

Welcome to Level4 Bio

We’re excited to launch Level4 Bio in a time of unprecedented opportunity to help so many  businesses and impact lives for the better of our world. Harmful airborne, foodborne and surface pathogens contribute to illness, hospitalization and death for far too many people.

Approximately 1 out of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a Hospital Acquired Infection.

Did you know that 1 in 6† people were infected by a foodborne illness in 2011?  And that approximately 1 out of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a Hospital Acquired Infection (“HAI”)?  Food contamination and HAI’s cost the country billions in medical expenses and lost productivity.

The problems may seem overwhelming, but if we help even one business or save one life, our time is worth it. Of course, we hope Level4 Bio reaches many more business and people, but look forward to making our world safer and healthier for everyone.


Salmonella Contamination

Each year, roughly 1 in 6 people in the US gets sick from eating contaminated food.

The 1,000 or more reported outbreaks that happen each year reveal familiar culprits—Salmonella and other common germs. We Salmonella sourcesknow that reducing contamination works. Over the past 15 years, a dangerous type of E. coli infection, responsible for the recall of millions of pounds of ground beef, has been cut almost in half.

Each year, roughly 1 in 6 people in the US gets sick from eating contaminated food.

Yet during that same time, Salmonella infection, which causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other type of germ found in food and $365 million in direct medical costs annually, has not declined. Each year, 1 million people get sick from eating food contaminated with Salmonella. Applying lessons learned from reducing E. coli O157 infections could help reduce illness caused by Salmonella.

Targeting Salmonella

Reducing Salmonella infection is difficult because:

  • It is found in many different types of foods: meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and even processed foods such as peanut butter.
  • Contamination can occur anywhere: from fields where food is grown to cutting boards in kitchens.
  • What we eat and how we eat have changed: foods coming from one central location are widely distributed, meaning that sickness can spread quickly; we eat more meals outside the home; and more foods and ingredients come from all over the world.
  • Some policies and procedures that can make a difference in reducing contamination take years to put into place.

The CDC recommends that farmers, grocery stores, and places that make, sell, or serve food can help reduce salmonella by:

  • Using good management practices to reduce contamination when raising livestock or food animals.
  • Adopting proven preventive measures for food safety plans in all food production and service facilities.
Level4 Bio is safe and effective in direct food environments, including on farms, in grocery stores, food processing plants, restaurants and other environments where food is harvested, made, sold or served.
Source: CDC National Outbreak Reporting System, 2004–2008.
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