It may not be Ebola, but keep it to yourself

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We all know how often parents send sick children to day care and nursery school because there’s no one home to watch them. It is so sad for young children to suffer through a school day while struggling with a cold or fever. Their presence solves one problem, but generates more problems for all the other children and parents.

Last week, the very week I got my flu shot, I noticed all the people around me wheezing and coughing. The guy at the coffee place had a cold. Did his germy hands taint my cup? I wondered. At the bakery, the lady putting my sticky buns in a bag had a terrible cough. Her head was covered with a net, but there were zillions of germs rocketing out of her mouth. On the train, the man in front of me was clutching his stomach and looked like he was about to propel his lunch onto the floor.

I enjoy playing bridge, although it becomes a high-risk activity in the flu season. Imagine 50 to 100 or more people in one room, all handling the same cards. They chomp on snacks, wipe their mouths, touch their faces and then fondle the playing cards. I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer at my table, but not many people use it.

I’m not a nut about this, but I hate getting into elevators and cars and airplanes these days. I’m not worried about bird flu or swine flu or Ebola. I just don’t want to be sidelined by a cold or flu that I can avoid.

You’ve heard, no doubt, about the 1918 flu pandemic that killed up to 100 million people worldwide. That flu, a deadly strain of influenza A, subtype H1N1, struck healthy young adults and achieved the distinction of becoming the greatest medical holocaust in history, killing more people than the Black Plague. It reached every corner of the globe. India lost 17 million people to the fast-moving disease. Entire villages in Alaska and Africa perished.

It was thought that soldiers mobilized throughout the world during World War I inadvertently helped spread the virus.

In October 1918, the deadliest month of the epidemic, 195,000 Americans became sick. In New York, 851 people died on a single day. There were no drugs to fight the disease, and health services were ill-equipped to deal with the medical emergency.
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