Tuesday, May 23, 2006


The Harvard Health Letter has a few suggestions on how you can reduce the chances of your good self becoming infected with the bird flu virus, should a pandemic outbreak occur.

Actually, these suggestions apply to the prevention of all flu viruses, and we don't know yet whether the avian influenza is the worst, or just one of the many, that could cause a pandemic flu death toll that outstrips the annual flu-related death toll of well over one million people.

The Harvard Health Letter suggests the following :

- Get a regular flu shot this fall. It won't protect you from bird flu, but it will reduce your risk of getting regular flu and bird flu at the same time.

- Don't count on antiviral medications. Some experts say there is "no credible evidence" that these drugs help against bird flu, and their use may create resistant strains.

- Wash your hands regularly.

- Stay away from birds and their droppings.

- Stock up on water and nonperishable groceries.

It is remarkable just how few Top Tips there really are. The most important ones, as with those listed above, are very simple, and very easy to follow. And the majority of the population of a country like the United States following, and sticking to, those guidelines could actually vastly decrease the potential of a pandemic flu virus.

After reading hundreds of articles and papers on bird flu prevention, and communicable virus prevention, you simply cannot go past "wash your hands regularly" as one of the key ways to avoid becoming infected with a whole host of viruses that pass easily between humans.

We habitually touch our faces, rub our eyes, eat some food with our hands, all ways in which an active virus we've picked up can be transferred to the mouth, or the bloodstream via the eyes.

Part of the pandemic flu guidelines now being discussed amongst businesses large and small across the US is how they will be able to guarantee safety for their workforces during pandemic flu outbreaks.

Two suggestions in particular stand out. The first is that co-workers would not be forced to work within less than three to five feet of each other. The second was that face-t0-face contact would be kept to a minimum and this would include no handshaking.

We may find, however, that as insurance companies crunch the numbers on bird flu, and general flu viruses, they will quickly realise that millions are lost each year from workers being off due to general flu viruses and that simply installing permanent guidelines about face-to-face contact and handshaking could reduce the total number of lost work days significantly.

No more handshaking in a possible future? Very likely. Either that or people will carry small packets of pre-treated tissues to wipe off their hands after each contact.

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