Swine flu has been on everyone's mind this year and that has led to plans made before the beginning of school this year to include preventive measures against the flu. I was not alive yet when the great flu epidemic hit during World War I. I know it's hard for some of you to believe that I am not quite that old, but I heard about it from my older siblings. They all pulled through in good shape and I never heard any concerns expressed in the family about other, later flu epidemics. But this new flu does give me some concerns.
First, how do you talk about it? It isn't nice to our swine producers to call it the swine flu. Saying the letters and numbers singly seems too tedious and saying H1N1 phonetically doesn't sound right either. I'd rather have the swine variety than the hiny type.
The next concern has to do with public places other than the schools. The board of education, the superintendents, principals and faculty have that situation planned out and under control. But what about less controlled environments? For example, what about church services?
In our church we have a time where members go around shaking hands with each other. We are a refined congregation and I am sure that each of us has washed well before coming to church, but what about that last minute sneeze, or the spit-up from the baby that had to be attended to? I was thinking that maybe a little antiseptic tissue could be stapled to each bulletin. We could assume that any member would see the point and discretely take care of any germs that might still be lingering on their hands.
But that might be too late. Our bulletins are handed out at the doors to the actual sanctuary. Already we have been greeted with a warm handshake at the outside door, and probably did some socializing in the lobby before even receiving the bulletin.
I remember when swimming pools had a container of medicated fluid that you had to step in before going into the pool area. This was to prevent the spread of athlete's foot as I remember. I suppose there could be a similar basin for hands outside the outer door for use before anyone has even been tempted to shake your hand. But weather, the necessity of paper towels for drying, etc. could make that unfeasible.
Then there is the concern about taking communion. When we break off a piece of bread and dip it in (for United Methodists) grape juice, we have opened up many more germ possibilities. The ushers could give each of us one hand of a latex glove, but that would be time consuming and if there is anything that good Christians don't want is anything that would make the service extend beyond the hour.
I suppose one solution to the problem would be to have a sign posted saying, "Please keep your hands to yourself," but that doesn't seem too friendly. We could substitute the handshakes with friendly waves. We could just walk in solemnly, take our seats and ignore the rest of the congregation. Or, we can assume that Congress will pass a health care plan that will take care of us if we catch the bug, and go on as we have before.
There are other diseases and misfortunes that we can worry about, so let's not get too upset over this one.
Can we shake on that?