Mike’s Ice takes on nasty microbes

The rapid spread of nasty viruses and bacteria borne illness in local offices, visiting cruise ships, hotels, hospitals and even from our own hands may be hindered if a soon to be launched product does what is claimed it can.

John Harvey and Ahisha Bodden

Mikes Ice CEO John Harvey with Ahisha Bodden, HR manager, as they discuss the Caribbean islands they are to take Bio-5 to. Photo: Cliodhna McGowan

Local business Mike’s Ice Refrigeration Company has been chosen to be the sole distributor in Cayman and other Caribbean islands for an emerging product range, which supposedly represents a significant breakthrough in the battle against bacteria, viruses and pathogenic killer bugs.

The product range, called ‘Bio-5’, is manufactured in the United Kingdom by Solutions Environmental Systems Ltd.

It is claimed the products can be used to take the risk out of the presence of harmful microbes in air conditioning systems, duct cleaning and in the hospitality and travel sectors, or for personal use.

Apparently the products work by reducing the reproduction and viable numbers of microbes to safe levels and then neutralising or killing remaining organisms.

CEO of Mike’s Ice, John Harvey explained that the product manufacturers sought out Grand Cayman because of the huge cruise ship industry here, and then set out to look for a distributor, which they found in Mike and Jo-Anne Brown, known for Celebrations, Mike’s Ice and the Mirco Centre.

‘Mike and Jo-Anne Brown have done a lot for the island by creating businesses and giving employment. That attracted the developers of Bio-5 to look at us. They were chosen because they have been so successful in business and are well established on the island,’ said Mr. Harvey.

Mike’s Ice is also well known for its air conditioning installations, another reason why the company was chosen.

One of the applications for the product is to treat an air conditioning system so it doesn’t keep propagating around viruses and bacteria.

A chemical is sprayed onto the coils and exchanges and grills of the system. The air becomes much cleaner, it is claimed.

The company now has sole distributor rights to bring the products into the Cayman Islands and also into the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Belize, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

The product is to be formally launched in Cayman in early 2007.

A local testing programme will be implemented this month and next month, before the launch. Results of the tests will be presented to the public to err on the side of caution and also in order to help with the credibility of the product, which has never been used here before, Mr. Harvey explained.

Although Mike’s Ice has not yet been in talks with cruise ships, airlines or local companies about the potential of selling the product to them, the manufacturer has liaised with cruise ship companies who are reportedly very interested in it.

Explaining how the product range works, Mr. Harvey said that when an area is contaminated with a serious virus such as Norwalk, Chicken flu or Legionnaire’s disease, normally very strong chemical agents are used to treat the area. The typical products themselves, he said, are risky, because of their potency. For instance, bleach can kill a virus or bacteria but it is a very strong, concentrated acid and is not healthy for humans to be near.

After using bleach to clean the area, it can become contaminated right away again, just by, say touching it, said Mr. Harvey. It only cleans the area at the time of application.

The Bio-5 product is different, he said. It works in two ways, once applied.

‘The biggest problem with viruses is that they rapidly expand in number, but Bio-5 uses one agent that stops them propagating so the numbers stay small; then, the second agent kicks in and it neutralizes or kills the bacteria and viruses,’ Mr. Harvey explained.

Bio-5 is much safer than harsh products such as bleach, he said, saying that it is at such a low concentrate of chemical that it could actually be drunk, although that is not recommended.

Having undergone tests for the last year, Bio-5 has acquired a Material Safety Data Sheet. This is required by the safety agencies in the US, Canada and the UK so that every chemical is tested for its toxicity. The MSDS shows that this product has been fully tested and is safe, Mr. Harvey said.

The right amount of chemical is targeted at the area so it’s a much lower dosage and much safer than other chemicals, according to Mr. Harvey.

Another claim is that Bio-5 can remain active on surfaces for extended periods,

Bio-5 can also be used on the hands as a sanitizer. Hands are a big way of spreading contamination. ‘Bleach,’ said Mr. Harvey, ‘cleans your hands, but they can re-contaminate immediately afterwards, when you’ve washed off the bleach, which you want to do.’ However, within a normal environment Bio-5 can protect your hands for about a day, he said.

If someone in Cayman is meeting tourists off a cruise ship they can put this on their hands in order to help protect themselves from picking up, say, Norwalk virus. Similarly, the tourists could sanitize their hands to help prevent spreading any virus that may have been on the ship.

Bio-5, he said, simply arrests the viruses and neutralises them without harming the skin.

‘When you know there’s a high potential for a short time of perhaps contracting Norwalk or hepatitis or chicken flu or any of those things known to be particularly deadly, then that is the time to employ it as a consumer.’

Asked about any dangers that could be associated with Bio-5, Mr. Harvey said that based on the MSDS sheet, it has nothing that shows any form of risk.

However, he added that no one is claiming it should be applied every single day all your life, simply because the product is so new.

He also noted that people shouldn’t want to avoid every virus or be paranoid about bacteria because people need to be exposed to a certain amount of them to keep our immune systems working.

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