Swine flu: First, sow no panic
Posted: May 3rd, 2009 - 10:17am
Wash your hands.
I know this sounds silly, but it is far more effective at preventing flu than having a dose-pack of Tamiflu in the medicine chest. Take it from a doctor, mother and reporter who covered SARS as well as bird flu where they were most virulent.
In 2003, as SARS was spreading across Asia, I was posted in Beijing. Many families fled. My children’s school — the International School of Beijing — was one of the very few in the city to stay open, although my daughter’s class of 25 dwindled below 10. For the children who remained, the school instituted strict policies — the ones that schools promote all the time but never really enforce. For parents, the first was: Don’t send your child to school sick. For students, it was: Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly during the day — before meals, after recess. No one got SARS. But more than that, the stomach bugs and common colds that are the bane of elementary schools all over the world disappeared as well.
If hand-washing is the first lesson of the SARS epidemic to apply to today’s swine flu outbreak, the others are: Masks, the symbol of protection, are only rarely useful. And enjoy being outside; it’s not where you will get the flu.