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Friday, May 12, 2006

One Flu over the Cuckoo's Nest

Sure, we should be prepared for a possible Bird Flu Pandemic; but I do not agree that we should be stockpiling billions of $$$ on antiviral drugs that are of questionable efficacy and safety. We should be concentrating on:
  • Ensuring that all of our citizens have robust immune systems that resist infectious attacks - concentrating on our most vulnerable - the elderly, the young and the infirm
  • Cleaning up the world's poultry industry that is breeding these bugs
  • Practicing effective public and personal hygiene practices like hand-washing with soap several times a day
On the hand-washing that is recommended in the emergency preparedness brochures; this is where we really are in Cuckoo-Land. I agree entirely that hand-washing is everyone's first line of defense against infection. However; this recommendation is often impractical, especially in schools where infections like influenza run rife during winter. My mother, Maisie, a retired school teacher, first pointed out to me the impracticality of getting school children to wash their hands. I have subsequently written several articles about this.
Each child should be washing their hands for at least 30 seconds at least 4 times a day while at school to remove the snot, saliva and also the dirt picked up in the playground and from door knobs, etc, etc. Here is the school maths:
20+ children per wash basin x 30 seconds/child x 4 times a day = 40 minutes without adding changeover time.
This means constant queueing throughout the breaks in class activity and, let's face it, this never happens with all of the kids usually being given no more than a few minutes to get the job done, if at all. To expect this to happen properly and consistently is just plain nuts.
Besides, if it did happen, already financially challenged schools would be flat broke within a few weeks and would require a full-timer employed to just keep the soap and hand towels flowing.
Of course, there are practical solutions; but these require investment. We could start by reallocating some of those billions being spent on mostly useless stocks of Tamiflu.

1 comment:

Wayne said...

bird flu is droplet spread unfortunatley, so if someone who is infected sneezes near you even clean hands won't saev you! but ahealthy immune systems choka with antioxidants might