Booster Shots

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Hand-washing is good to prevent colds, but for swine flu? Maybe not so good

September 17, 2009 | 12:36 pm

PigA handful of scientists, so to speak, say that washing your hands routinely may not be a good way to prevent transmission of the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus, according to an article in Newsweek. There is no question that sanitizing hands is very useful for preventing the spread of germs that cause colds and other respiratory diseases, experts say. But influenza, both the seasonal and swine varieties, is spread primarily through aerosol droplets, and washing your hands does little to prevent that.

Masks have also not been found to be very effective, particularly the cheap surgical masks most people favor. In the absence of a swine flu vaccine then, perhaps the only thing left is to cough into your sleeve or elbow to prevent those aerosols from attacking your neighbor.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II