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Thursday, July 09, 2009


Sharing the germs

A student commented the other evening that there was a case of H1N1 flu at the demonstration high school on campus and asked if I recommended they should wear masks to protect themselves. Dr John has no particular expertise in this area however I had read the advice on the WHO website because I incorporated it in a newsletter article I wrote. It said that there was no evidence that masks reduced infections. It then went on to give advice on how to use masks. I guess because, despite what they advise, there will still be people who use them. I told the student what WHO said and he said that the Thai Health Department advised wearing a mask.

If you have a cold or the flu and you wear a mask WHO advises that when you cough or sneeze, you should replace the mask. If it's disposable, get a new one. If it's washable, put it in the washing. The point seemed to be that we shouldn't wear the same mask all day long. Think about it. If you're coughing and sneezing into that mask over and over it will soon be full of germs. WHO also advised keeping hands away from your mouth and regular washing of hands.

We've just had another of our five-day weekends here in Thailand. If you live in a tourist area that means it gets busy. If you live somewhere like Mahasarakham, that means it virtually dies. The place you usually eat may no longer be open. I went to a different place for lunch on Saturday. The woman who served me was wearing a mask. After she served me she started coughing and automatically put her hand to her mouth. A series of thoughts entered my head: 'How long's she been wearing that mask? Does she have flu? Did she cough before she handled my plate? Did she wash her hands? Did she help to prepare my food? If she's not the cook, does the cook have the flu?'

Living in Asia, I rarely cook my own food but the danger of eating out is that you simply do not know the hygiene standards of the person preparing your food. Will her mask protect me from her flu? Not if she's been wearing it all day. In this case it will aid in the transmission of the germs.

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May be that's why you are so healthy ;p as you get immune to the GEMS haha!
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