Friday, October 27, 2006

Buy Some Masks

In a NY Times Op-Ed, a Stanford Business School Prof. Lawrence Wein discusses the single most important precaution you can take to prevent catching a deadly virus during a future influenza epidemic. "Our findings suggest that the dominant mode of transmission for influenza is aerosol — implying that hand washing will make little difference." And there is a way to protect yourself:
...the single most effective intervention is face protection. And because roughly one-third of influenza transmissions occur before an infected person exhibits symptoms, these precautions should be taken whenever people are in the same room throughout the pandemic period.
Don't count on your government. Buy yourself some N95 face masks today. Keep in mind that lacking a competent executive branch, the US government is a rudderless entity. But nevertheless, many other countries still wait to follow what the US does in relation to major health issues. Remember Katrina, think for yourself, and be prepared. Wein confirms that the US goverment doesn't have a clue what it is doing in regards to this serious public health threat:
Remarkably, this issue has not been resolved: the Department of Health and Human Services’ Pandemic Influenza Plan states that “the relative clinical importance of each of these modes of transmission is not known.” As a result, the government enthusiastically endorses frequent hand washing — which would reduce contact transmission, and costs nothing — but remains noncommittal about face protection. While the government says that it might be beneficial, it doesn’t make respirators or masks available. Yet face protection would guard against aerosol and droplet transmission, and even reduce contact transmission by making it difficult to place fingers into one’s mouth or nose.
Because I am based in a region where a bird flu pandemic could start at any time (see this Jotman posting), I pack a face mask -- just in case. The face mask also comes in handy when I am exposed to the filthy roadside air of an Asian metropolis. One thing I would add to what Wein wrote is that in the event of a pandemic, you would also want to wear wrap around glasses, because during SARS it was found that virus could enter the body through the eyes. Also, I advise buying your masks from 3M -- a company that seems to pay particular attention to design and quality.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Because all comments on this blog are moderated, there will be some delay before your comment is approved.