Two years ago, the government stated that the H5N1 virus (Avian Flu virus) is changing (through rapid mutation) and they expect it to eventually be able to transmit from human to human; not just bird to human. They also know that it could start anywhere and spread quickly; after all we are a global society and very mobile. Instead of taking months to spread globally, it could take only days or weeks to reach the United States and then spread to every state in virtually no time at all.
Dr. Richard Benjamin, of the American Red Cross, brought up several points that need to be observed in order to protect yourself from getting sick. Most of these are obvious and most of them we ignore (e.g. get plenty of rest, eat healthy and exercise), but he said that it is more important than ever that we start taking care of ourselves so that if we are exposed to any illness, we will have a better chance at fighting the disease and keeping our immunity strong.
His suggestions on how we can protect ourselves now and in the future are:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- coughing and sneeze into your elbow. (Do not cough over your shoulder; the guy behind you won’t appreciate it. It is best if you use disposable tissue to cover your mouth, but in a pinch you could do like my son and cough inside the front of your shirt. This keeps your germs on you and doesn’t spread them to others.)
- Disinfect commonly shared items: phones, computer keyboards, drinking fountain buttons, door handles, etc.
- If you are sick, stay home. (PLEASE!)
- Eat healthy (and drink plenty of fluids – a.k.a. water).
- Get plenty of rest. (Remember the saying, “Early to bed, early to rise…”?)
- Exercise. (Even if you don’t feel like it.)
- Build your immune system. (Keep your immunizations up to date (including adults), take your vitamins, de-stress your life, etc.)
- Get a seasonal flu shot. (This helps to build your immunity and Dr. Benjamin said that it MIGHT help against a pandemic.)
The Red Cross has a “Pandemic Flu Family Preparedness Guide” that you can get at your local chapter or visit www.redcross.org/pandemicflu.
What it comes down to is that we need to educate ourselves; it is OUR responsibility to take care of OURSELVES and OUR families. We need to do every thing that we can to protect ourselves from getting sick – pandemic or not.
I was thinking that as a society, in order to stay well, we might want to consider changing some of our social graces such as shaking hands and giving hugs to acquaintances or people on the street. Maybe we could find another way to acknowledge each other and show affection. Some suggestions have been that we give elbow bumps instead of high-fives or hand shaking. You might laugh at this, but at one point in time high-fives were thought to be weird – it might just be worth your health to reconsider how you greet others.
Also, another thing that you might consider is if there is an outbreak in your office and you don’t want to get exposed, or you are feeling a little under the weather and don’t want to expose others, you might want to anticipate the possibility of working out of your home – if you have that option. Think ahead of time and ask yourself if you would need to purchase any special type of computer program now so you could telecommute? Would you need to have any special add-on’s to your telephone system? Holding meetings via the computer is becoming more and more acceptable, and it is certainly cheaper – and potentially healthier.
Think about how you and your place of employment is going to address a pandemic outbreak and how you and your boss can prepare ahead of time to protect your health and your job. Just something else to think about. Now go in and drink some orange juice to build up your immune system and go to bed early so that you stay well rested and strong – and avoid petting any sick birds from China.