Family Flublog

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Personal habits to keep from catching the flu

Sounds like it will be North America's turn for avian flu within the year:

From CBS News this morning:
"Dr. David Nabarro said Wednesday that wild birds will likely carry the virus from West Africa across the North Atlantic into the Arctic this spring.

"Migratory birds flying south for the winter will then spread the virus into the rest of North America and eventually South America, Nabarro told a briefing in New York.

"Frankly, there will be a pandemic, sooner or later," he said. "It might be due to H5N1 or to some other influenza virus and it could start any time."

And you should be keeping your cat inside if your country already has avian flu:

From Bloomburg.com today:

"A beech marten from the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, where Germany's first cases of bird flu were detected last month, has tested positive for the H5N1 virus, the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health said. It's the second type of mammal after three cats to be infected with bird flu in Germany, where a total of six states have now detected the virus in wild birds.

"It is noteworthy that the spectrum of the H5N1 infected mammals has spread,'' the institute said in a statement. It's the first time a marten, a weasel-like creature, is known to have bird flu."

The last post dealt with not spreading the flu virus. Now let's look at personal habits that may keep us from catching it.

Remember, there are two ways virus gets into your body: your lungs and your hands.

LUNGS: KEEP YOUR DISTANCE

Flu virus is sprayed into the air for up to three feet when you cough, sneeze, or even laugh.
Move at least arm's length away from coughers. Change your seat, step back, slide your chair away, get off and take the next elevator, hold your breath?

Your child's school should move a cougher to a seat apart from the other children.

When I fly, I will take a mask along to wear if I can't get away from a cougher. A regular surgical mask will block droplets if it is worn snugly. It may draw attention, but also may prevent your vacation from being spoiled, like mine was on a trip to Rome a couple of years ago.

Here are some more tips for flying from the Pall Corporation (filter manufacturer):

"Advice to the Flying Public... even state-of–the-art cabin air filters cannot prevent the possibility of direct person-to-person transmission within the aircraft cabin. Direct contact, such as touching common surfaces, sneezing, coughing and talking with an infected individual on an airplane can transmit infections. Proximity to an infected individual increases risk more than the duration of a flight. [my bolds]

"Infection disease specialists recommend that air travelers should wash their hands frequently. Lundquist also recommends that opening the overhead gasper nozzles available on most airplanes to provide a steady flow of filtered air can help reduce the direct transmission of microbes from neighboring passengers. http://www.pall.com/news_articles_36290.asp

I guess that means you open the nozzle and blow it at the cougher and away from you!
I truly think that airlines should provide masks for coughers and insist that they wear them.

HANDS: DON'T TRUST THEM

I don't consider myself a germ freak, but as this virus keeps spreading, we better have new habits in place. We should be teaching our families now how to avoid getting the virus.

Always consider your hands contaminated, unless you have touched NOTHING since you've washed them. Think of them as your own personal fly feet. Yuck!

The advice to "wash your hands frequently" is too vague. Sounds random, and it shouldn't be. Consider the following:

NEVER touch your fingers to your face. Now that will be a hard habit for me to break!

A tissue should be between your fingers and your face any time you need to touch it (rubbing eyes, itching nose, etc). A notorious entry point for the flu virus is your eyes, believe it or not.

If you don't have time to find a tissue, then use a knuckle or the back of your wrist to scratch that itch.

If you bite your nails, invest in a good pair of cuticle scissors to carry instead. They do a much better job, anyway.

When you know you've touched something you shouldn't, carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your brief case, purse or backpack to use to clean your hands, before you touch anything else.

The ultimate in things you shouldn't touch is the door knob out of a public restroom.
So you washed your hands. You are in the minority. Those who breeze through and don't wash make the door knob or push plate out a nirvana for viruses. Likewise the faucets at the sink, which are turned on by very dirty hands.

Always use a paper towel between your hands and the faucets and your hands and the door handle, once your hands are washed. If the trash can is too far from the door to reach, so be it. As trash piles up in the corner near the door, the establishment will get the picture.

Wash your hands before you eat, particularly finger foods like sandwiches. Do your children have an opportunity to do this at school? I bet not. That's were the waterless cleanser in the backpack comes in.

Teach your kids not to share bites or sips or even pencils. This seems so paranoid, but will become more and more important as pandemic flu becomes a reality.

Sorry for the long post. It just seems so important to start thinking about these things seriously.