Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
As if there is not enough to worry about (economy, grassfires, and even pirates), now there's an epidemic of flu to worry about. It's bad enough that Europeans are being warned not to travel to North America (including the United States), people in Mexico are walking around with respirator masks on, and the global stock market is plummeting because of it. Not to make light of the 150+ in Mexico who have died from this latest strain of flu, or the 50+ in six states now in the U.S., but this is not an immediate threat to us here in Minnesota. Oh, yes, we need to be concerned. We just don't need to panic just yet. This flu is believed to have started in pigs, but beyond that swine have nothing to do with it. That's probably why officials (especially the Pork Producer associations) are starting to call it "North American flu." The flu is caused by a virus that is passed from person to person, regardless of whether you've been on a farm or eaten pork. What is a little scary is that we're in the midst of springtime cold and allergy season. So lots of us are coughing and sneezing, and lots of us feel mildly "sick." This flu epidemic is much worse than a cold or allergy, though. When you're sick with the North American flu, you'll really feel sick. The coughing is deep and body-wrenching, and it's accompanied by a high fever and horrible headache. Human nature is part of the problem, too. They say that adults touch their faces with their hands at least once a minute, all day long. And young children do this far more frequently. Our hands are great collectors and transmitters of all the germs and viruses out there. Think of everything you touch during the day: people, money, papers, dishes, furniture, door handles, remote controls, books, shared pens at the store or bank, ... you get the idea. I used to work in a giant medical center, but we office workers felt comfortable that we never went near sick people. So we were safe, right? Nope. The doctors with whom we worked brought all the sick people's germs to us, with great frequency, on all the paperwork we handled. The good news is that this flu responds to Tamiflu and Relenza, two available prescription medications. So here are some very common-sense things you can do. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. (I've been told it's the rubbing that's more important than the temperature of the water or quality of the soap.) Carry hand sanitizer with you for when you can't use soap and water. Cover your mouth when you cough; cough into your sleeve instead of your hands. Drink plenty of water; it's always good for you, and the extra hydration will help if you fall ill. If you're sick, stay home and keep your germs (and viruses) to yourself. If you have a high fever (above 101 degrees), see a doctor soon. Use your own pen at stores to write checks or sign credit card slips. Take care of your health otherwise; don't let your immune system get run down. Personally, I would avoid flying anywhere for awhile. Airplanes can be such a great place to collect germs. But caution is the name of the game here. We don't need to bolt our doors and wait for this to pass. It could be awhile. Keep in mind that this whole flu thing is going to change daily, perhaps even hourly. Minnesota is one of the best states for reporting such things, so we can rest assured that we'll be well informed. Meanwhile, let's hope that health officials are able to contain this and end the epidemic. NOTE: If you're looking for photos or stories (especially for the school), we simply ran out of room this week and plan to include them next week. Our feature photos next week likely will be the mock crash that took place at the high school Tuesday afternoon.