Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pandemic near, now what?

Do not get alarmed as the number of confirmed swine flu cases grows in the next several days. It will grow -- by a lot, and quickly, because people are being tested widely and those tests can be performed without sending samples to the CDC. Keep in mind that most of the cases have been relatively mild. In many, people have recovered before testing was even complete.

The precautions being taken -- like closing a school at the first sign of infection -- may seem severe, but keeping possibly infected individuals isolated (such as at their home) is the most effective and practical way to thwart person-to-person spread. Some communities in Texas and a few schools in Northern California have canceled classes already while suspected or confirmed cases are investigated and the schools can be disinfected.

Should things get much worse in any community, major public events may be curtailed and many people will be urged to work from their homes temporarily. This is why having a supply of food and other essential supplies is a good idea.

Do you need to wear a mask? Probably not. If you are sick, wearing a handkerchief or surgical mask is probably a good idea to keep from spreading your germs. If a family member gets sick, the CDC recommends that the individual stay in one room and that only one family member enters to provide care. Surgical masks do not provide sufficient protection from the flu for a non-infected person, by the way.

Can I get swine flu on an airplane? Maybe, but probably not. Contrary to popular belief, the flu virus doesn't circulate very well, especially through many air conditioner filters. Although airplane air may be stale, it is not likely to carry the flu. However, if you are seated next to someone with the flu, your risk is considerably higher. The flu is transmitted through little fluid droplets that don't travel far, but airplane seats are pretty tight. Best advice: carry some alcohol wipes and swab your audio-video controls, your tray table and other surfaces before touching them. Use a tissue to open and close lavatory doors. And, wash your hands frequently. -- Post From My iPhone

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