The OTHER Jon Snow

The Other Jon Snow, White Walker

If you are like me, you faithfully followed Game of Thrones for years—sometimes watching weekly, but often binge-watching to catch up. In the beginning, I always had a screenshot of the character list on hand as I familiarized myself with the many names and faces.

I found myself wanting to talk about the complicated and intense storylines with friends and family—wanting to find out their opinions and to impress them with my knowledge of the characters.

One particularly noteworthy character is, of course, Jon Snow, played by Kit Harrington, and introduced as the illegitimate son of a Northern lord who ultimately accepts the duty of serving in the Night's Watch.

John Snow

As I began researching a very different topic, handwashing, I stumbled upon another Jon Snow (actually John  Snow, but close enough!) A team member of ours was the first to introduce me to his legacy, sharing an article she  remembered from her college days.

Dr. John Snow was an English physician and pioneer in medical hygiene, as well as the development of anesthesia, and is widely considered to be a founder of modern epidemiology.

Epidemiology is the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases, so it is more relevant today than ever. The same can be said for handwashing, which is an essential activity in today’s world.

While today it may seem obvious, around 170 years ago when John Snow recommended handwashing and hygiene  to prevent cholera, he was hardly taken seriously. In the words of the other Jon Snow, sometimes “we look up at  the same stars and see such different things.”  

Dr. John Snow is perhaps most known for his investigation of a 19th century cholera outbreak in London. During the cholera outbreak, Snow noticed that many miners were struck with the disease while working underground. It seemed most likely to Snow that the cholera had been spread by germs on the miners’ hands.

Snow used geographical co-ordinates to figure out where cholera, which was infecting and killing people in the Broad Street area of Soho London, was coming from. Based on his findings, Snow hypothesized that a water pump was the source of the disease, rather than airborne vapors.

Cholera Prevention Notice

When Snow removed the handle from the pump and had the water chlorinated, no new cases of cholera in that area were reported.

Thus, by removing the handle of the pump, and asking patients to wash hands and practice good hygiene, the infected water was not consumed, and the cholera cases diminished.

By using meticulous locational analysis and a “simple and direct” action, Dr. Snow stopped the deaths and saved lives. Physical distancing, isolation, hand washing, a robust public health campaign and tracking of disease is vital—sound familiar?

Dr. Snow used a geographical grid to track deaths, similar to COVID testing and tracing today, and also bolstered the legitimacy of handwashing. Even today epidemiologists have estimated that handwashing with soap can reduce diarrhea by 47 percent and save one million lives in third world countries.

Our hands can have anywhere from 100,000 to a few million germs at any given time. Some of those germs live naturally on your skin to protect you, but a lot of them, like COVID-19, flu, or the common cold, are quite literally picked up in the environment and they sit, waiting for transportation to your mouth, nose, or eyes. Germs can survive for up to three hours on your hands, and when you don't wash your hands, you transfer germs to the food and drinks you eat.

Cholera Spread Map

Hand WashingWant to learn more about the importance of handwashing, and how to ensure you’re going about it the right way?

Check out this helpful information from the CDC

Hand Washing

Want to learn more about the importance of handwashing, and how to ensure you’re going about it the right way?

Check out this helpful information from the CDC

This is the first in a series of blogs on the topic of handwashing. If you enjoyed it, I hope you’ll check back soon for the second installment. Let’s enable a culture of hygiene, together. To borrow another quote from Jon Snow,

“The only way to do [our] job without optimism would be as a cynic, and that’s not [our] nature.”

The Other Jon Snow, White Walker

An Inside Look at Handwashing, from the President’s Desk and Scientific Team at PlaneAire®

Sharing our insight is a responsibility we take seriously as a company. Our team of creative and scientific professionals regularly investigates, discusses and shares the latest information, and we take pride in following the pulse of health science, and regularly consulting with esteemed medical experts from around the globe.

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