EDITORIAL: Be Kind, Don’t Spread Swine (Flu)

Lariat Editorial Board

Although this virus usually affects pigs, it can be transmitted from pigs to humans. All it takes is one person to catch one of the strains of type A influenza, and that person then spreads it to others before showing any signs of illness. It only takes a cough, touching something contaminated with the flu virus, and putting one’s hand to the mouth.

The symptoms of swine flu appear like a regular seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu have also reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

The World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert level to Phase 4 (out of six phases) over the flu virus, as infections of the new strain spread to the United States, Canada and Europe.

The Center for Disease Control announced Monday that it had activated its Emergency Operations Center “to coordinate the agency’s response to this emerging health threat and yesterday the Secretary of the Department Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, declared a public health emergency in the United States.”

The flu outbreak is showing negative effects on the travel industry. On Monday, after the first cases of swine flu appeared in Spain and Scotland, European health officials decided to issue public health warnings concerning travel to the U.S. According to the Washington Post’s foreign press service, Richard E. Besser, acting director of the CDC in Atlanta, the travel warning was “quite premature.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that U.S. stock prices fell slightly, most notably for hotels and airlines. Also affected was the Mexican Bolsa Index, causing the value of the peso to the U.S. dollar to drop 4.1 percent, the largest drop in the last six months.

The world is now asking, “Are we looking at a high-level pandemic?” Is this a repeat of the SARS scare that occurred in Asia several years ago? Will Americans be buying disposable breathing masks and running to their doctor for a prescription for antiviral medication?

The answer is “probably not.” News reports show that people are crossing the Mexican-U.S. border at Tijuana as if nothing has changed. People are still getting on airplanes and traveling around the world, stuck in a self-contained metal bubble where germs freely circulate through the ventilation system, with only minor concern that perhaps there are virus molecules floating into their lungs.

Life goes on in Orange County. While people are keeping an eye on the up-to-the-minute news via the Internet or by watching CNN, most are not in a state of panic.

However, one should be aware of ways to stop the spread of any type of airborne virus. There are some basic steps to take to ensure that a person standing close by won’t get those nasty microbes that spew out of the nose and mouth when one coughs or sneezes. Sadly, it takes the threat of an epidemic for people to show some basic respect and the manners they learned in kindergarten.

Although we are now college students, here is a gentle reminder from the CDC of those precautions and what you can do to prevent the spread of any type of airborne virus as well as what you can do to stay healthy in general:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick, the CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.