Can’t touch this —or that

We all know those people who are always washing their hands and then use a paper towel to open the door. They will wear gloves on the train even in the summer—or the occasional surgical mask. They may be germaphobes, but with this flu season in full swing they may be the smart ones. On the train, in the office, and just about everywhere you go, people are coughing and sneezing and spreading those germs.

The flu shot is developed in the early spring so manufacturers can produce enough vaccine in time for flu season. The vaccine is based on an educated guess of medical scientists; this year’s flu shot is only 10% effective. That said, it is better to have the shot than not. This flu season is a killer if ignored.

In a typical flu season, up to 40,000 people could die from complications from the flu. Young and old alike are not immune to the disease. In the news we heard about the deaths of a 10-year-old Connecticut boy, a hockey player, and a 44-year-old marathon running mother from California. Both were healthy and active, which makes the point that no one is immune.

I get the flu shot every year, but in my family there are mixed feelings about it. The hospitals are packed with flu patients, and the way the flu changes is what can kill you. In the cases above, the flu quickly turned to pneumonia and in a few days turned to deadly sepsis that killed them both. The flu is no ordinary cold and is nothing to be trifled with.

A person can take precautions to protect oneself, including washing your hands and not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands. I carry small packs of Purell wipes, which are very convenient to use. Others carry small bottles of hand sanitizer and use it often.

In a tight, confined place like the train or subway cars, getting out of the way of an infected person is practically impossible. Lately, when someone sneezes in the open they are greeted with dirty looks, and those that can choose to move away from the offending individuals.

Common sense must prevail. This past week I was witness to a sight of human kindness. The elderly woman sitting next to me was very well dressed, her white hairdo was very becoming, and she had a very pleasant personality, although she spoke very little. She carried with her an oversized bag that looked to be full but very light. I happened to sneeze, covering my mouth as I did. She turned to me and said, “bless you,” and then reached into her bag and gave me a pack of tissues, saying “These are for you to keep.” I thanked her for her generosity and she assured me it was for personal reasons, since she didn’t want to get sick.

During the rest of the train ride, when someone coughed or sneezed, she got up from her seat to hand the person a pack of tissues. Soon most of the back half of the train car had her tissues. She told me she gets them from the dollar store, and it was cheaper than health insurance.

This was a very pleasant trip and a real act of kindness from a stranger. We should all be so kind. 


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