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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.

3. Cover your mouth and nose. Do you have a Darth Vader mask? Put it on. It's been shown to be 99.97 percent effective in stopping the transmission of influenza. No Darth Vader mask? A burka will do.

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.

By John Kelly  |  April 28, 2009; 10:15 AM ET
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John, You are still think you are on San Antonio time. No need to add an hour, since you are now back safely in the presence of those you love. Right?

Posted by: iremembrmama | April 28, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

John, how much duct tape do you suggest we stock up on?

Posted by: justhere | April 28, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Dang, Lowes is already out of plastic sheeting. On to Home Depot.

Posted by: DLDx | April 28, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

My husband always laughs at me - when I get on a plane, I wipe down the handles of the arm rests and the tray table with some antiseptic wipes. Even if I'm not killing germs, they become less sticky, which is a plus (the wipes ALWAYS come away grotty).

He had to fly this week for business. And raided my wipes supply. He told me the guy in the next seat asked if he could use some, too ;)

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 28, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Good news it will take our Socialist govt only 4 to 6mos to develop and get a vaccine to members of the politburo and other important leftists. The rest of us are SOL. Thank god we have Obama.

Posted by: sheepherder | April 28, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Anyone bought a mask yet? Anyone know a good place to buy one? I'm already a fanatic about wipes, purell and handwashing....but i want to protect myself from those hackers and sneezers that you mention!

Posted by: aka583 | April 28, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

A mask?! Are you all the same wacky people who use those special fabric covers for grocery carts for your kids?! Two rules: 1) Don't lick stuff if you don't know where it's been. 2) Wash your hands a few times a day. Those are the only two tips you need.

Posted by: conchfc | April 28, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Those who get a mild case and quickly get over it will do the best. No more worries. At least not for this inconvenience.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | April 28, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Sheephumpers aren't on the eligibility list for the vaccine. That's how the swine flu got started.

Posted by: justhere | April 28, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

All this sanitizing weakens your immune system. Bubble wrapping yourself and your kids from every little germ isn't helping. Go roll in dirt a few times, that'll help keep your immune system strong. And yes, don't lick the floor, the metro handrails, or a pig, and you'll be fine.

Posted by: Sitka1 | April 28, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Studies have shown that children who are raised with dogs who spend time outside are healthy and miss less school days.

Hey justhere care to repeat your comments to me in person bubba? Or are you a typical no load liberal all talk and no action panty sniffer!

And hoss if you check the govt website you find out it does take 4-6mos to get a vaccine to market and your govt officals are first on the list to receive it.

Posted by: sheepherder | April 28, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I was living in Sydney from 98-05 and thus was blissfully absent during some trying DC times. When Lowe's and Home Depot were stormed by frantic sheeting and duct tape-mad residents, my mom (then 60something) replied to Reston neighbors' pleas for conformity by saying "oh, if the terrorists want to get me, that's OK. I've had a great life."

Posted by: chunche | April 28, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Regarding covering your mouth and nose: Do so, but don't use your bare hand to do so unless you can wash it immediately. Think about how much you're spreading germs if you sneeze, then use that same hand to hold the grab bar on the Metrorail. Yuk.

Posted by: 1995hoo | April 28, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

OMG, sheepherder! How can you turn everything into a political diatribe? It is time for you to move to Montana with the other survivalists and militia members. BTW, your macho bluster and bravado don't impress me, HOSS!...and correct English grammar is "fewer days", not "less", you cretin (look it up).

Posted by: Slinger61 | April 28, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

John, welcome back. Now you know how to get a bunch of hits instead of just me and those other two regular posters, who I suspect are relatives, or English, or both. You did a semi-reverent (for you, we have to remember context here) of an Aggie-specific ritual and had posters crawling out of the woodwork to attack or defend you.

Seems to me that group included the viral political poster above. As I recall, he (or she?) was against. I've got to say though, I never expected a reputable blog site such as this to discuss panty sniffing. And you are (as I am sure others have pointed out) not even Weingarten.

Posted by: reddragon1 | April 28, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, it's easier said than done to ask workers to stay home if they feel sick. More than 40 percent of U.S. workers have no paid sick days, according to the Department of Labor. And in this economy, employees are bypassing vacations and sick days in order to keep their jobs; not to mention the fact that employers have cut back on sick days recently.
I blog about this today at

Posted by: careerdiva | April 28, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

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