Posts Tagged ‘swine flu’

H1N1 flu – Do hand sanitizers and face masks work?

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Does it rub the lotion on its skin or should it place the lotion in the basket?

I was heading out to pick up some antibacterial hand sanitizers and hand wipes at Target this morning, thinking something was better than nothing.  Then my scientist husband told me those things weren’t preventative; in fact, they don’t do much to kill the H1N1 flu.

While most sicknesses (and many normal flu strains) are from bacteria, the H1N1 (human/swine/avian) strain is from a new mutated virus. Quoting husband, “hand sanitizers don’t hurt the flu, it laughs at them.”  I asked him how he knows it laughs, I mean, it could be a giggle, or a sarcastic rolling of eyes. Anyway, he ignores me and goes on to explain.

Washing hands with water and soap would be the most effective in getting rid of the H1N1 flu.  By the way, let’s all say H1N1 and not Swine flu, and protect all the innocent pigs getting slaughtered.  My husband tried to explain why washing with water was more effective.  Basically, a water molecule is so big it can encapsulate a tiny little virus particle and wash it down the sink.  Something like that. 

Hand sanitizers just rub the virus around in your hands, and the alcohol base in the sanitizer might kill some of it.  But it still isn’t as effective as soap and water.  The antibacterial stuff will still help in killing other things that might make you sick. So it’s still a good idea to carry a little bottle of it after touching door handles, grocery carts, etc. because you wouldn’t want to catch something else on top of the flu.

Hand sanitizers shouldn’t be the sole preventative measure to take; I can picture people using hand sanitizers 20x a day and never wash their hands with water.

Wash your hands with water after you get home.

And then there’s the question about face masks. Do face masks prevent infection? Face masks being sold are so porous that they wouldn’t do a good job in shielding your nose/mouth from tiny virus particles.  However, their job is in preventing large droplets being transmitted from sneezing or coughing. So if you are in a very crowded area, wearing a face mask would be helpful, but it wouldn’t shield you from breathing in particles.

So go home and wash your hands after you take off your face mask!

Below are two sites with helpful tips for preventative measures:

http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/swineflu_you.htm

http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/faq_prevention/en/index.html

This site talks about a non-alcohol based hand sanitizer that was proven effective:

http://www.scientificblogging.com/news_articles/hand_sanitizers_proven_be_effective_against_h1n1_influenza_swine_flu_virus

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Swine flu has made us map crazy all over again.

Check out all these maps tracking swine flu.  This vaguely reminds me of the obsessive up to the minute maps of the ’08 Presidential Election.  I can’t help but keep updating.

http://healthmap.org/swineflu

http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/2009/04/swine-flu-outbreak-on-google-maps.html

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-04-27-swine-flu-states_N.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/04/27/us/20090427-flu-update-graphic.html

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30435064

Swine Flu – “…deaths could be from healthy people who have a healthy, robust immune system that overreacts.”

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Instead of reading the 1000 articles about swine flu that say the same thing in different ways, try these sites below, which actually provide facts:

http://www.cdc.gov/ – Center for Disease Control and Prevention

http://www.who.int/en/ – World Health Organization

I just watched a small clip on CNN about their poll of how many Americans would delay travel to Mexico or continue their plans to Mexico. And how only 2% would cancel/delay, and something like 38% would go forward with their plans.  I hate these polls.  They don’t make sense.  What percentage were actually going to Mexico?  

Anyway, one major difference between a regular flu and the swine flu is that the swine flu seems to kill healthy people with strong immune systems between ages 20-45, while regular flu will have more fatalities in the elderly or extremely young. One hypothesis is that this strain of swine flu (a combination of human/swine/bird flu) makes healthy peoples’ immune systems attack themselves trying to fight the virus off. This is also the same age group hit in the 1918 flu pandemic.

So why is the swine flu hitting Mexico harder?  1) It could just be timing.  Maybe the flu hasn’t been in other countries long enough to be severe.  2) Healthy young people didn’t get treatment quickly enough, thinking they can recover on their own . 3) Maybe people in Mexico are fighting off other bacterium in their bodies, and their immune systems went crazy trying to fight off too many different things.

We shouldn’t think we have more mild cases in the US than Mexico. When the flu is transmitted from person to person, the virus gets more complex each time, and that could mean it can get more severe. The flu doesn’t get more diluted from person to person. There are too many reasons why Mexico seems to be hit harder than the other infected countries.

The number of people reported of testing positive for swine flu looks like it’s decreasing in Mexico, but that’s only because hospitals are rushed to provide treatment and don’t have time to go through days of testing.  People with the flu might not have days left, so they are provided pills and rushed out of the hospitals.  They don’t have any time to document every single case.  And how many of the 2,000 documented infected people are mild or severe? The numbers of fatalities, documented cases, etc. will keep increasing, but we don’t know how.

Scientists are also seeing the resemblance between the 1918 Spanish flu to the swine flu. The CDC has an article about the 1918 pandemic if you’re interested.  And during the 1918 pandemic, the first wave was mild, followed by a more deadly second wave.  Just because it’s mild now doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take precautions.

Also, the number is always going to be wayyyy off on how many cases there are.  For example, the first 8 cases were in a school in Queens.  Those 8 kids were the ones who stayed after school to get tested.  It was a friday afternoon, and the other 100 or so kids complaining of symptoms went home for the weekend, infecting their siblings who took the flu to their schools, infecting the parents who went to work, and so on. It also takes days to test for swine flu. By the end of the week, hundreds or thousands will have it.  So will closing our borders make any difference?  It didn’t just start last week.  This could have been going on for a month or so here, and even longer in Mexico.

The CDC and WHO also said that you cannot get the virus from eating pork.  It isn’t transmitted that way.  So slaughtering all the pigs in your country is just plain murder.  The name swine flu is misleading in that sense.  Just like the name Spanish flu.  It was only named the Spanish flu in 1918 because Spain was the first country to provide the most media coverage on the pandemic.  The name swine flu doesn’t mean eating pork gives you the flu.

Wash your hands. Carry hand sanitzer or wipes. Don’t share food or drinks with sick people. Stay away from work or school if you’re sick. These are all common sense rules I wish people would normally follow to begin with. 

And if you do get the flu, get treatment, especially within 48 hours.  My husband is a scientist in the field, which is why I felt the need to write all this. He thinks a pandemic is inevitable, given all the facts. He insists on getting treatment within 48 hours to prevent the flu from getting severe in case it has the strength to be fatal. Healthy people between ages 20-45 shouldn’t think they are healthy enough to fight it off without treatment.