http:// “Going Viral” has taken on new meaning in our social media culture. This time of year, it’s important to remember the origins of the term (which does not get as many “Likes”). The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has a really cool map that shows the level of influenza in each state. This link shows the flu on the US map for the first week in January, 2013. When you click on “previous week” you will see how quickly and deeply the flu virus spreads across the country (hence the term “going viral”).
On the news last night, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reported that 19 people have died this flu season in my state of Georgia. The H1N1 (swine flu) is the big culprit this year. One child and 18 adults (ages 18 – 65) lost their lives to the flu in the last few months. This hit home for me because I know of at least two people from my unofficial but illustrious “stem cell transplant club” who were hospitalized because of acquired infections and ultimately succumbed (died) because their bodies couldn’t fight any longer.
It is so simple. Perhaps too simple. If you want to help people fighting cancer or other illnesses, do these simple things:
Avoid getting sick & spreading invisible disease. Easier said than done? Try these:
- Wash your hands constantly throughout the day: AFTER using the bathroom, changing a diaper, a sneeze, petting an animal, coming home from public places). BEFORE eating, putting your fingers to your mouth, scratching what itches, picking up a child, touching someone who is immune-suppressed.
- Clean commonly-used surfaces (like counter tops, tables, remote controls, telephones, keyboards, iPads, door nobs, sink water knobs, toilet flusher/levers, railings) Don’t forget the car: steering wheel, arm rests, radio/dashboard, consoles, cup holders.
- Drink lots of water; choose healthy food; get enough sleep (your body heals when at rest).
- Get the flu shot; keep up with your immunizations.
If you get a Cold, Flu, Chickenpox, Strep Throat, et al… don’t spread the misery.
In addition to 1, 2, & 3 above:
- Don’t go to work or school when you are sick. First, your body will heal faster if you invest some time in rest. Second, you risk spreading your germs to others. Your colleagues may be healthy enough to resist the germs but they may have loved ones at home who can’t. They can unwittingly carry the germs home. Those germs can then find their way to one who is immune suppressed (e.g., people with auto-immune diseases, cancer, post-transplant, chronic illness, infants, and elderly) and cause hospitalization and sometimes funerals.
- Stay away from people you know are immune-suppressed, pregnant, or otherwise at-risk for at least a week after you “feel better” or think the infection is gone. You may feel better and be symptom-free, but that pesky virus/bacteria/fungus may still be lurking. A couple days after your visit, the immune-suppressed friend/family starts feeling crummy, needs medical attention, etc.
- Wear a nose/mouth mask and disposable gloves if you must be around a vulnerable person. The at-risk person should also wear a mask and gloves.