When President Obama officially declared the 2009 H1N1 outbreak a national emergency over the weekend, I thought, “good. Now it’ll force Americans to wear masks when they’re sick, or if they don’t want to get sick, like in Japan.
The Japanese (and other people throughout Asia) have always worn face masks to prevent the spread of illness. It’s partly out of personal interest — so they won’t have to breath in allergens, pollutants or other peoples’ yucky germs. But it’s also out of plain politeness and consideration — to keep your own damn germs to yourself.
H1N1, or as lots of people still call it, Swine Flu, is the first time in my memory in the U.S. that everyone is being reminded of simple ways to stay healthy with hygiene (wash your hands often) and even told how to sneeze or cough (into your elbow). At my office building, hand sanitizer dispensers have magically appeared everywhere from the lobby to the bathrooms. And, there are signs and poster everywhere, including on the door to the bathroom and on the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom, with diagrams showing people how to sneeze into their elbows, and to wash their hands.
I always thought it was gross when someone sneezed or coughed into their hands, which was what our parents taught us when we were told to “cover your mouth,” but then extended their hand in greeting. Continue reading