Air Kisses, Hugs, and Other Ways to Avoid Getting Swine Flu
In an effort to contain swine flu, the
If close contact with others cannot be avoided, the ill student should be asked to wear a surgical mask during the period of contact. Examples of close contact include kissing, sharing eating or drinking utensils, or having any other contact between persons likely to result in exposure to respiratory droplets.
This, of course, conjures an image in my mind of couples making out in surgical masks while swaying to the music at a frat party. Such silliness makes me wonder: Just how effective at stemming the spread of swine flu is all this advice?
I posed this question to swine flu expert
That poses particular problems for pregnant women changing the dirty diapers of their infected toddlers. Pregnant women are at heightened risk of developing severe complications when infected with H1N1. In fact, those with infected family members are in a tough spot until the vaccine becomes available. In a previous blog post, one reader wrote a comment that she was pregnant and just found out her 3-year-old had swine flu: "I have been advised to avoid direct contact with him for one week from when he began taking the Tamiflu dose," she wrote. "I just would like guidance on how I could see him without endangering my unborn child and myself. It is very difficult to hear your child crying your name and you cannot go to him."
Wenzel, who's chair of the department of internal medicine at
In its guidance to pregnant women, the CDC says those who've been exposed to someone with H1N1 should consider taking the inhaled drug zanamivir (Relenza) as the first drug of choice because it's not absorbed as readily into the bloodstream and poses less risk to a developing fetus. Women with respiratory problems who can't take Relenza should consider oseltamivir (Tamiflu) as a "reasonable alternative." The agency emphasizes, though, that the rest of us shouldn't take these drugs as a preventive measure; the risk is that the virus will mutate into a drug-resistant strain.
There are other things that we can do to avoid getting infected with H1N1. Despite the bashing of la bise, kissing on the cheek probably isn't a common route of transmission, says Wenzel. Handshakes, though, are problematic, so if you must meet an extended hand at, say, a business meeting, sneak that travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer out of your purse and rub some on when no one's looking. The key is to not rub your nose, mouth, or eyes after you've just come in close contact with someone who's coughing, sneezing, or blowing his nose--that is, until you've washed or disinfected your hands. Hugging, Wenzel adds, is actually better than a handshake. And, yes, you should avoid sharing a beverage or mouth kiss with someone who might be infected.
Also, be aware that the H1N1 virus can live on objects, like a phone or computer mouse, for a few hours. So avoid sharing them with colleagues, or swab them down with alcohol wipes frequently. I use my own pen when signing credit card receipts instead of the one handled by dozens of other customers before me.
Sometimes, infection is simply unavoidable. About 7 to 8 percent of infected people, Wenzel says, "are what we call superspreaders--transmitting the virus to 10 or more people." These folks, he theorizes, exhale microscopic droplets that stay suspended in the air for hours like hot-air balloons, waiting for someone to walk by and breathe them in. No amount of hand washing will protect you from that.
H1N1 and Its Descendents: Where This Pandemic Flu Came From - and Where it Might Go
Harvard Health Letters
Already, 2009 is not a typical year. We're in the midst of a flu pandemic caused by a virus that first emerged in Mexico in mid-February. Billions are being spent on preparedness plans. And millions of Americans may line up this fall to get two kinds of flu vaccines, one for the regular seasonal flu that comes around every winter and another for the pandemic strain. So far, the 2009 pandemic has been more widespread than lethal.
Vive la Resistance to Flu
Vaccinating people against swine flu may be a lot easier than anyone dared hope, as it turns out that people have an unexpected degree of immunity to the pandemic now sweeping the world.
This may go down in history as the most confusing flu season ever, given that a vaccine for the new H1N1 swine flu isn't yet available, but the plain old seasonal flu vaccine is. Talk about a recipe for pandemonium at the pediatrician's office!
Seasonal Cold or Swine Flu? Moms Face Tough Calls
I sent my 11-year-old son to school today with a stuffy nose and mild cough, as I've done countless times in the past. Now, though, I'm wondering whether I should have kept him home. How do I know it's really a garden-variety cold and not the swine flu?
The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases made it easy to think that all children will need just one swine flu immunization, but that's not true. The younger a child is, the less well his or her immune system responded to the swine flu vaccine in clinical trials. So children under age 10 will need two doses of swine flu vaccine, one month apart, according to the NIAID itself.
Better Ways Medicine Can Beat Back Swine Flu
Bernadine Healy M.D.
Yes, today's swine flu outbreak could change quickly. But it's time to give up the ghosts of 1918 that so haunt our medical thinking. Our challenges today are not what they were when we had nothing to offer but are more about knowing just what to offer, when, and to whom. This swine flu pandemic promises to teach numerous lessons that will inform future crises. Some are already evident
(C) 2009 U.S. News & World Report