For the past several weeks (and for a few more to come), you’ve been overrun with advice on how to ward off the common cold and flu. Every day you are treated to an onslaught of cautionary suggestions, including “wash your hands,” “scrub the counters,” “avoid contact,” and “beware of the already sniffling.” You have read, listened and absorbed the advice with mounting impatience. Enough already! You avoided the flu last year without turning into a germaphobe; you imagine you can do the same this year. But you might be wrong. Because, that’s the mind frame much of the United Kingdom had, and much of the United Kingdom has been struck down by the flu.
An estimated 100,000 Britons a week have contracted the norovirus or winter vomiting bug since the season’s start. Doctors believe that by the end the incidence rate will have doubled. Millions of individuals will be hit with a sudden wave of nausea, followed by projectile vomiting and diarrhea. For up to three days, they will be violently ill and if they are one of the unlucky, their illness will be worsened by fever, aching limbs, headaches and cramps. There is nothing they can do once they’ve been infected but drink fluids, stay home and wait it out.
So what, you say. Who, except for the Britons, cares that the United Kingdom is experiencing its worst flu season since 2002? They’re thousands of miles away, across the ocean, on an island.
True, but you are ignoring the number of Americans and Canadians who regularly travel back and forth between North America and Great Britain. You are forgetting that this bug is passed easily, with the touch of a hand, sip of a drink or bite of a bagel. And you are foolishly denying the fact that there is more than one virus in the world. You may not get the winter vomiting bug this year, but if you aren’t careful, you could get any number of other illnesses. You could spend a significant portion of your January or February moaning on your bathroom floor, tossing and turning in your bed and suffering in your living room.
Or you could become a germaphobe.
Wash your hands. Avoid contact with infected individuals and contaminated surfaces. Take extra care with food and drink, not sharing with the sick, and washing everything and anything thoroughly. If you do become ill, stay home. Take care of yourself, and help stop the spread of the viruses that are already running rampant this season.
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