So you think you can protect yourself from the flu

Perhaps you’ve see photos like the one above showing the H1N1 (or Swine Flu) virus.  If not, certainly you’ve heard warnings about the necessity of washing hands frequently to avoid contracting the disease.

That’s good advice, to be sure, but I wonder how effective it is.  I began thinking about how many opportunities we have to contract H1N1 during the day and so decided to chronicle an actual, though not typical, day of mine.

The day in question was not typical in that I was able to complete several errands, despite the onrushing deadline to finish my e-newsletter, and I never ventured on a subway or bus. Moreover, I didn’t happen to snack on a slice of pizza, a cup of yogurt or a banana, exchanging germs on money, a spoon, paper plate or just the skin of the fruit.

Below you’ll find a chronicle–which doubtless omits numerous contagion opportunities and absolutely leaves out the times I washed my hands–of my mundane day.  It also fails to note when I rubbed an itchy nose (mine, that is), touched my mouth or put my fingers and hands on another part of my body to, say, scratch the skin or rub a sore muscle, thereby leaving whatever germs  in their wake.

(By the way, I’ve said I’d never twitter.  Seeing here in black and white how I spend my days, I am more committed than ever to resisting the intrusion of the details of  my life into the lives of others.)

This is mostly what I did that day:

  • Picked up newspaper outside door and riffed through it.
  • Removed plastic supermarket bag from remnants of loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.
  • Put unwashed, ripened nectarine in refrigerator and squeezed variety of plums to see whether they were ready, too.
  • Opened five bottles to extract pills/tablets.
  • Tied shoes.
  • Used handle to open two sets of lobby doors.
  • Went to wine store to check on a gift delivery, jangling change in my pocket, handled the receipt and examined a couple of bottles.
  • Used handle to open two sets of lobby doors.
  • Untied shoes.
  • Put away gym shoes
  • Handled bottle of Chinese vinegar for lunch
  • Looked at my mail and endorsed a check.
  • Packed two hats for return in the same box in which they were shipped to me.
  • Tied shoes.
  • Opened one lobby door.
  • Opened bank door.
  • Used ATM.
  • Opened bank door again.
  • Picked up two packages of chicken.
  • Paid with cash.
  • Used handles on bag to carry purchase.
  • Opened post office door, entering and departing.
  • Used my keys to open my front door.
  • United shoes.
  • Opened refrigerator door and put away food.
  • Worked on computer–activity throughout the day.
  • Looked over a couple of postcards advertising retail specials.
  • Opened refrigerator door, removed items, prepared dinner, set oven timer.
  • Put on shoes again.
  • Shouldered and adjusted backpack.
  • Handed over my gym ID card.
  • Took off shoes, put on gym shoes.
  • Shook hands with friends in gym.
  • Used various equipment.
  • Took shower.
  • Obtained body lotion from dispenser.
  • Tied shoes and slung backpack over shoulders.
  • Used keys again to enter apartment.
  • Took off backup and changed clothes.
  • Opened refrigerator, finished making dinner, pushed buttons on stove and opened oven door several times.
  • Ate dinner.
  • Opened apartment door and deposited trash in chute, then opened door again.
  • Used TV remote.
  • Checked BlackBerry again, another daylong activity.

To me, the lesson is that it’s next to impossible for anyone to avoid communicating the disease to himself or herself, never mind others. If I had washed up at every possible exposure to the virus, I’d have time for virtually nothing else.

H1N1 is potentially everywhere.  If someone isn’t leaving it behind for you on that spoon for the yogurt or the container, for example, you may actually be doing it to yourself–transferring it from, say, your keys or your hand on a door handle.

Yet I assume it’s possible to reduce the risk by frequent hand washing and applications of anti-bacterials, though possibly not by much.  Or you could encase yourself in protective clothing and wear a mask as a writer in the New York Times tried, with mixed results.

For those who are especially vulnerable to H1N1, an inoculation is in order. And the usual seasonal flu shot is a good idea as well. I’ll be getting the seasonal inoculation but, because of my age, skipping the Swine Flu one.  (Actually, I’m not convinced that the week I was ill a couple of months ago wasn’t a bout of that very illness.)

What are you going do?

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201


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