In case you haven’t heard (please don’t tell me you haven’t heard) about the flu virus that is a mutation of swine, avian(bird) and human strains, we are quickly approaching a pandemic situation.
As a parent, this feels doubly frightful. If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all, you will have already seen or heard it: the first swine-flu-related death in the United States has occurred. The victim? A twenty-two-month-old boy. As a mother, as a parent, even as a (grown) child, my heart goes out to this family.
So, how do we as a local and global community respond to this quickly intensifying situation? Do we keep our children home from school? Do we lock ourselves in our homes and hope we can hunker down long enough for this global health emergency to pass?
Not quite yet. Unless you live in Mexico, that is. And, maybe, New York.
You can frequently check the CDC’s website for current information on where the swine flu has been confirmed in our country (see link below). If you see reports of increasing numbers in your own state, then you may want to take more aggressive action. But for most of us, at this point, the same basic recommendations apply as during any more typical flu season:
- HAND WASHING–teach your children (and yourself) how to properly and frequently wash hands: 15-20 seconds with hot soapy water, all surfaces, in between fingers, each and every time.
- if you’re sick, stay at home. Avoid infecting other people with whatever it is you’ve got. Don’t be the hero that goes to work to “tough it out” and end up spreading your cold/flu to your office mates.
- cover your cough/sneeze with your elbow–not your hand
- avoiding rubbing your eyes/nose/ and touching your face/mouth AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE–especially when out in public. Viruses enter our bodies through our tissues called mucous membranes (that’s a fancy term for the lining of your eyes, nose, mouth and the like). If you’re out and about and happen to pick up the germs of the sick person who used that grocery cart right before you, taking these basic steps (paired with toting around a little container of hand sanitizer and using it after touching highly public surfaces) should keep you safe.
- Because there have been some school closures in the San Francisco Bay area and New York, check with your local school district for any additional information about closures in your area, community-wide instituted recommendations, etc.
And, not least of all, for the best source of up-to-date information on the swine flu, its spread, treatment options, public actions, etc., go here.
Oh yeah, and one more thing: no, you can’t contract swine flu from eating pork. Don’t stop buying pork chops and bacon. At least, that’s what the national pork industry lobbyists are telling us.
Liz, anything I missed here? Want to chime in?