When a flu outbreak was first detected in Mexico City in mid-March, locals thought it was just a late flu season. But when the disease quickly surged, the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization discovered these cases to be a new strain of H1N1—first known as “Swine Flu.” What sent people running to their doctors for checkups and to stores for antibacterial gel, was fear of the unknown.
At first it seemed there was reason for great concern. The disease was spreading rapidly. Unlike the common flu, young and healthy people were dying. We felt powerless to stop it. A pandemic seemed imminent.
As of this writing there are over 5,000 confirmed cases of H1N1 in the United States and over 10,000 worldwide. These have resulted in 87 deaths. A map showing states and countries affected, and the number of cases, is being continually updated at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30435064. As high as the confirmed cases look, the death rate is low compared to deaths from the regular flu--an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 annually.1
Although thankfully it hasn’t reached the pandemic level, the H1N1 virus is here to stay for a while. So here are some simple steps we can all take to help protect ourselves:
1. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
2. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 10-15 seconds. Wash especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. If using a gel, rub until your hands are dry.
3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
4. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
5. Stay home if you are sick for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. This is to keep from infecting others and spreading the virus further.2
In addition we need strong immune systems to avoid contracting this virus, or to fight it should we become sick. Things that weaken our immune systems seem to have the word “lack” in them: lack of sleep, lack of exercise, lack of a balanced nutritious diet, lack of water, and lack or fresh air and sunshine. But “excesses” can also weaken our immune system: excess sugar, excess stress, and excess refined foods.
This most recent scare causes us to stop and think about our own health. But we shouldn’t want good health out of fear of the H1N1 virus. We should want good health because we wish to live life to its fullest. Life is too short to be holding on to bad health habits that cause us to feel run-down and tired. Let’s take care of ourselves so that we can enjoy ever moment of every day.