We hate to even bring up the subject, but following the H1N1 Pandemic the world experienced, it is important that we plan for, yet hope that there won’t be another one.  No one knows when an outbreak will occur, or the specific characteristics of a future pandemic virus, which are unpredictable.  Also unknown are what age groups will be affected, nor how dangerous it will be. 

Pandemics occur when a new virus spreads easily from person to person throughout the world.  Knowing what to do in our daily lives, work, and activities can be helpful. 

I had the misfortune while on an Alaskan cruise to catch some kind of “bug”, which required a visit to the doctor, two shots, several medications and about three weeks to get over.  Other friends who traveled to various places came home sick, as well.  Following a trip to China, two of our family members came home so ill they had to be hospitalized.  We know that most persons who travel come home feeling perfectly fine, but there are too many ways to come in contact with germs that can make us very ill.  Even though you wash your hands thoroughly, you still have to touch rails, elevator buttons, door- knobs and other items that hundreds of people are in contact with, as well.  (I have decided that the next trip I go on, I will wear gloves.  It may look silly, but I know I won’t be touching something loaded with germs!)  Anyone riding on mass transportation would be wise to carry sanitary wipes along. 

When we were dealing with the H1N1 virus, experts advised hand washing, covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue only once, staying home if you feel sick, and getting the vaccine.  Workplaces should provide hand sanitizers, tissues, plastic cups rather than dishes and cups that may not be washed thoroughly.  They should also remove magazines from waiting rooms and break rooms, when illness breaks out.  Workstations should be cleaned frequently, to keep employees healthy.  This is good advice to follow even when there’s no outbreak of a virus.  If there is a “bug” moving around, avoid travel, meetings, and workshops, if at all possible.  Also stay away from crowded places.   If there is a vaccine available, by all means, get it.  Many times it is recommended to get the flu vaccine; even if the new virus is a different strain, it is hoped that this will allow the symptoms to be less serious.

As we said, we hope there will never be another pandemic, and if we take better precautions and try to keep ourselves healthy, hopefully it won’t happen again.  But in a world full of more and more people, something is bound to occur sooner or later.  If countries will share the information worldwide as soon as they suspect a virus is beginning to spread, other countries will be better prepared to protect their citizens.  A pandemic impacts countries’ economies, industries, schools, hospitals, and governments, in other words, everyone.  Stay healthy.