Sunday, August 23, 2009

Are your hands clean?

It has been a looong time since I last wrote an entry. So much has happened, I'm not sure where to begin.

Let's start with something that has been on my mind for a few months now, the H1N1 influenza virus. You may ask yourself why this issue is bothering me since I am not a medical professional and won't be responsible for any aspect of spreading, containing or treating the disease.

I beg to differ. We each have a role to play in the first two - spreading and containing a deadly and unpredictable disease.

I wouldn't say that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder because that would negate the seriousness of the disease. If there are levels to OCD with 10 being the highest (the TV character Monk comes to mind) and one is the lowest - I am at about six. I am concerned about cleanliness but not crazed, just yet.

The manic publicity surrounding the outbreak, spread and WHO warnings of the H1N1 virus has made me revisit all the precautions I took previously and amped up the wattage just a little. In the meantime I have been watching how people govern themselves in public and I am very concerned that we don't stand a chance against the virus.

We are told by health professionals what to do to help prevent the spread of the virus: cover your cough, cough or sneeze into your elbow, use a tissue to blow your nose then throw it away immediately and wash your hands regularly. We are also told not to touch our mouth, nose or eyes as these are the entryways to our body for the virus.

With these precautions in place I have been looking at how people govern themselves. They are not following any of these strong recommendations. People continue to cough and sneeze on each other. They cough into their hands and then shake others' hands. They touch door handles, countertops and other things that house millions of virus and absently touch their face, especially their mouth, nose and eyes.

When I see all this I grow increasingly alarmed that we are not going to stop the virus but will continue to spread it wide and far throughout from person to person, house to house and country to country.

Here are a few points you can think about to help prevent the spread of germs because there are some obvious things we can do to protect ourselves. Use this list as you see appropriate.

  • Do not to touch door handles and knobs;
  • If using public transportation, try not to touch the handles, bars and straps provided (but not at the risk of falling over and hurting yourself);
  • Don't use pens that are provided to sign your debit card receipt (carry your own);
  • Try not to shake hands. (If you can get away with a polite head nod go ahead, if you think a hug would suffice that would be acceptable or even fist bump the person);
  • When in a restaurant try not to use the condiments - think about it.
These are just a few of the things I try to avoid when in public because hundreds of people would have touched them before I did. I am sure if scientists conducted tests on these things the number of germs crawling around would shocking.

As soon as I get home I wash my hands. I carry a hand sanitizer in my purse and use it before I eat in public. I watch people put their hands to their face regularly. I want to stop them but then I can see myself being locked up with real OCD patients, which would be a nightmare in and of itself.

In closing, please heed WHO warnings. Follow your local health organization's guidance and advise, they are doing it for your protection.

Wash your hands and be healthy.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great advice. But also remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow! I have a tip to help with this (especially if you're around small kids). I heard about a great program called Germy Wormy Germ Smart that teaches kids to understand how germs spread and how to NOT spread germs. My daughter learned it at pre-school, and it educates them how to utilize the above recommendations. It was so much fun for her, and amazing how quickly the kids learned healthier hygiene habits! The website speaks for itself: