Don't Be a Swine: Pandemic Etiquette
The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic threat level from 3 to 4. The U.S. government's national threat level is at Yellow, or "elevated" (but the airline threat level is at Orange, or "high"). The pollen count for D.C. is high, for oak, mulberry and ash.
It's all enough to make you want to stay home under the covers. Which is exactly what I hope you'll do should you start to feel the slightest bit sick. Swine flu is sweeping the globe faster than Susan Boyle. While no one's died from it in the United States, it's killed dozens of people in Mexico.
What can you do to protect yourself? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers some helpful advice on its Web page. As a public service, I've annotated the six tips. Remember, whatever you do, don't panic. At least not until the CDC tells you to.
1. Avoid close contact. You probably know some touchers. These are people--relatives, co-workers--who can't hold a conversation without touching you in some way. They have to hug you or grab your elbow or drape an avuncular arm over your shoulder. A quick kick in the solar plexus should get the message across--stay back!--but if that seems too extreme, simply spray the affected area with Lysol or braise the body part with the sort of torch used to brown creme brulee.
2. Stay home when you are sick. We know how the office would be lost without you. And we all know how much you love to play the martyr. But, for the love of all that is holy, stay home. Don't drag your sorry sniffling, sneezing, aching, oozing body into the workplace. If we're being totally honest, we don't particularly like to see you when you're healthy. And we really don't want to see you when you're sick. If you insist on coming to work, stay in your car down in the parking lot. We'll leave any important documents in a bag near the dumpster. You can drive up to collect them then conduct business over your Blackberry.
4. Clean your hands. Dipping them in a solution of equal parts Bactine, Barbicide, Goof Off, weak lye and water discharged from a nuclear power plant should kill most flu germs. If you are obsessive-compulsive your probably already have a batch of this made up.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. This is the most important piece of advice. Whatever you do, don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth. No matter how much your nose might itch, don't scratch it. To scratch it would be like snorting a vial of Mexican pig sputum. Itchy eyes brought about by our high pollen count? For god's sake, man, don't rub them. Better to sit there in excruciating discomfort--your eyes burning like a California wildfire--than risk contaminating your tear ducts with the H1N1 virus. As for your mouth, don't even go there. I don't know how you're going to feed yourself for the next few weeks but the risks of starvation pale in comparison to swine flu. Besides, as the next bit of advice recommends:
6. Practice other good health habits. Now's the perfect time to start that weight-loss program you've always been meaning to get around to. And Pilates. Haven't you always wanted to give that a whirl? No time like the present, especially if the present finds us in the midst of a deadly pandemic. While you're at it, did you know that adding bran to your diet can reduce the likelihood of intestinal polyps? Quit smoking and keep your skin moisturized and I'm sure you'll be just fine.
Any other helpful tips? Feel free to share them in the Comments section below. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go gargle with naphtha.
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