With all the horror stories in the press at the moment, it’s natural to worry about the swine flu virus (otherwise known as H1N1). While nothing can prevent the virus 100%, there are several courses of actions you can take to at least minimise your chance of getting sick.
1) Basic hygiene: the virus can survive for 24 hours on any surface, so it is important not only to wash your hands regularly but also keep surfaces such as door handles, shared telephones and desktops disinfected. If you do touch shared surfaces, make sure to wash your hands with alcoholic hand gel afterwards.
2) Avoid crowds: this is not always easy, particularly if you travel on public transport or work in a crowded or open-plan office. However, if you do have the chance, avoid large groups of people. High-risk zones are, for instance, shopping centres, supermarkets during busy times, schools and buses or trains. If possible, switch to driving to work for a while and avoid clothes shopping on weekends!
3) Personal contact: for the moment, drop overly-friendly greetings. This means: no air kissing, no cheek-kissing and perhaps even avoid hugging when you meet somebody. If you shake hands with someone, make sure to discretely wash your hands afterwards. This may not win you any friends, but may stop you getting sick.
4) Take care of yourself: the better care you take of yourself, the stronger your immune system tends to be. Try to make an added effort to eat healthily – take in plenty of fruit and veg, as well as nuts and seeds and lean protein. Avoid the junk food for a while! Try to do a bit of exercise each day and get plenty of sleep each night. The more run-down your body is, the more susceptible you will be to sickness.
5) Do not share food and drink: It’s tempting to share forkfulls of chocolate cheesecake or delicious ravioli with your pals in the restaurant, but you might want to hold off for a bit. Swine can be transmitted through contaminated eating utensils.
If you do happen to feel sick:
1) Do NOT go into work: you will only be putting others at risk.
2) Visit a doctor as soon as possible, or ring up the swine flu helpline. Be clear about what your symptoms are. The quicker the sickness is identified, the better, since Tamiflu and Relenza are both far more effective when taken within the first 36 hours of infection.
What about surgical masks?
Surgical masks are more helpful in preventing one from passing on the virus than preventing it in the first place. This is partly due to the fact that the virus can be contracted both through contact with bacteria and through the air. Many masks have small pores in them, which allow the virus to still pass through. If you are feeling sick though and cannot stay home, it might be a good idea to wear a mask in case you infect others.