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With the media reporting death tolls you would be forgiven for being alarmed - until, like me, you looked at the mortality rate for any of the normal seasonal flu strains. So far this winter (yeah, it's winter here smile ) we're not even close to those figures.

I had the Hong Kong flu in 1969 - not nice!


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My first letter home to the parents this year has the following:

 Stay home if you’re sick.
 Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
 Wash your hands often.
 Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
 Cover your mouth or nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
 Try to stay in good general health.
 Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
 Try not to touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus.

I also told students they were to wash their hands at my house before starting their lessons. I have paper towels for them to use. One mom, who is a nurse, thinks it is a good idea.


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I know, it's really weird, but my wife can attest to this. I wonder if it's just the body developing enough of an autoimmune system by the time you reach your mid-life or what.


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A virus can only be caught once by a person. Then we become immune to it. That is why vaccines for things like chicken pox work. So as we age, we get sick less often because we have developed immunity to certain pathogens. The exception is that some viruses, like the common cold, mutate often, so they can be passed back and forth a few times, slightly different each time, but enough to get around our immunity. That is why scientists have not been able to come up with a vaccine for the common cold.

Because children have not had the chance to build up immunity, they get sick more often. And people who work with children - medical, teachers, etc, therefore get exposed to more things.

(In my former life, I was in the health field.)


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Sorry to nitpick but you can catch a virus more than once if you don't get a bad enough case of it and your immune system is not activated enough. My brother had chicken pox 3 times and my dad had it twice. As far as the chicken pox vaccine working, it does but we don't yet know how long the vaccine works so there is some speculation that booster shots may be necessary. Also chicken pox vaccine has been implicated in adult shingles.

On a happier note, it looks like old codgers of my generation may still have immunity against small pox from the vaccine we all got as babies.

You are correct about the ease at which viruses mutate but sometimes the mutuation is slight enough that the old antibodies are still effective. And you are correct that as we age we have been exposed to more sicknesses so we have better immunity. I read a study that stated that children who are exposed to more sickness (e.g. day care, play dates) or dirt (e.g. farms) have stronger immune systems than children kept in very clean homes away from of other kids' runny noses and fevers. These children also have a lower incidence of lymphoma. So all that "rolling around in each other's germs" actually makes kids stronger. (Yes, this is a perfect excuse for not cleaning your house. laugh

Just be warned that if you are a new teacher, you can expect to get sick a lot so it is especially important for you to wash your hands and piano keys. After raising 3 kids and teaching public school for 10 years I'll occasionally get swollen glands when a virus is making the rounds at school, but a good night's sleep puts me straight and I very rarely (knock on piano) get sick.

(In my present life I'm a science teacher and in my former life I was in a health field too.)


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In addition to good hygiene, I would suggest that you must invest in a regular supply of Purell or similar alcohol based sanitizers. Each student should be asked to use some before touching your keyboard. You ought to use some a few times a day yourself, especially after manipulating a child's belongings, e.g. pencils / books etc.. Minimize contact (hugs, handshakes etc). Do not teach a child (or adult) with open flu-like symptms (ie sneezing, coughing etc).
It is true that, for most people, the swine flu manifested in an indistinguishable fashion from any other upper respiratory virus. But it is also undeniable that some people young and old got very ill or died. No matter the statistics, one should not take chances or be too cavalier about simple preventive measures...

Last edited by Andromaque; 08/28/09 08:50 PM.
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Fortunately, I have a sink in my classroom so I encourage hand washing. Soap and water are actually better than Purell as demonstrated by hospital nurses who use hand sanitizer in most rooms, except those of contagious patients. There they use soap and water.

Another important tip: Make sure your students (piano or otherwise) dispose of their dirty tissues outside your studio or classroom. Sitting next to a trash can filled with dirty tissues is a sure way to get sick.


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Actually hospitals have switched largely to alcohol-based solutions, although detergents including soap and water, are not discredited. Pre-operative hand scrubbing by surgeons and other personnel was also changed to a simple application of alcohol based sanitizers without any brushes. Multiple studies have shown the superiority of alcohol based products and their greater acceptability (and thus compliance) rates.
Of course, "soap and water" is also good, when and if it is available. You will need to provide disposable hand towels with that, preferably..

Last edited by Andromaque; 08/29/09 01:59 AM.
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That's odd. When my son was recently in a children's hospital he was put in temporary isolation until they ruled out contagious diseases. The nurses explained to me that soap and water is best and the doctors and nurses all abandoned the hand sanitizer, donned gowns and washed their hands with soap and water before leaving his room.


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Originally Posted by Barb860

Stanny's idea of having the disposable towels is good.
I should have been doing this all along...


Actually, the towels are not disposable....they are cloth, but they are one use towels and will be placed in a bin under the sink after use. I ordered 24 of them, so will need to wash them each week.


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Originally Posted by Mark...
So far this virus doesn't seem any worse that the yearly flu we see every year. This one is just getting more media attention. Hand washing with soap and hot water is the best. 15 seconds minimum. Many sanitizers/disinfectants cause bugs to morph into stronger bugs.

Send sick kids home and like someone said don't touch your face. Get the flu shot. Eat well get rest and don't stress out on this flu...


But here's the problem. (I'm an ICU nurse, BTW). This virus was very active over the summer, even in the Northern Hemisphere, when the conditions for the flu virus are normally unfavorable. The fact that it was so active at such an unlikely time is ominous. It is also hitting people in their prime. Further, when it combines with the seasonal flu, we will get still more variations. The flu is highly unpredictable, especially a new strain. This could turn out to be more serious than people realize.

While antibiotics (oral and IV/IM) do cause super-bugs, I'm not aware that that's been proven with our hand soaps. Also, hand sanitizers are said to be effective on the flu virus and most other bugs, except C-diff.

The most important thing for people to know is that the flu is RESPIRATORY. There is no such thing as the stomach flu. If you have no respiratory symptoms, you do not have the flu (some kids have had some nausea/vomiting with H1N1, which is unusual, but still it's not the primary symptom). If you think you have a bad cold, you may have the flu. THAT is where the challenge lies--discerning a bad cold from the flu.

I agree not to stress out about it, though.


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Originally Posted by diinin
Also, hand sanitizers are said to be effective on the flu virus and most other bugs, except C-diff.



Ah ha. That explains the hand washing when my son was in the hospital. There were indeed ruling out C-diff. (Clostridium difficile).


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As I understand it, fever is the one big symptom that tells you whether you have a mere cold or the more serious flu, which kills tens of thousands of people, just in the US, even in an ordinary year. Then, there are the terrible flu years like 1918, when even the youngest and strongest are killed in a matter of days (twenty million deaths worldwide, by some estimates--- with a much lower world population). That is what the health experts are trying to forestall, as you can well imagine that there is no possibility that everyone could be treated.

Not that I'm unsympathetic with anyone who's ill, but it has bothered me for a long time that people seem to feel it's quite ok to go out in public and spread these communicable diseases to whomever they share a space with. Classroom, piano keyboard, subway car, airplane, office--- you name it. Of course, there's a lot of pressure on people to do this from employers, airlines, schools, etc., because it would cost them money and some inconvenience to do otherwise. But a lot of people, it seems to me, just don't care what happens to the other guy... and I would be glad to see this change.

One would think that even the simplest of infection control devices, like the handkerchief, had never been invented, let alone staying home until you feel better.

I think maybe the easier and quicker hand-sanitizer method is preferred by health workers partly because washing the hands with soap twenty times during the work day is pretty rough on the skin. But... if you want to find a really excellent population of germs, what better place to look than a doctor's waiting room?

For the rest of us, hand-washing is probably the best.


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Originally Posted by Jeff Clef
But... if you want to find a really excellent population of germs, what better place to look than a doctor's waiting room?

Sorry to keep this non-musical thread going but what Jeff said brought something else to mind. When you visit the doctor's office, do yourself a favor and do not use the pens that are available at the receptionist's desk and do not read the magazines. Who knows what kind of illness the last person who used them had? Bring your own pen and reading matter.


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Originally Posted by Jeff Clef

For the rest of us, hand-washing is probably the best.


I would not want to be misunderstood about hand washing. I am not underestimating it. It is key. HOWEVER, access to hand washing is not always easy (or sanitary). In fact, taps, sink surfaces, bathroom door handles and even soap bars are often cultured for a wide variety of germs. A little tip here: When you wash your hands, especially in a public area, you should avoid contact with these surfaces after you wash. The best way would be of course "no-touch activators" that turn the tap on and off and open the door automatically. Alternatively, use a dry paper towel to turn the tap off and open the door..
The above limitations (and the poor compliance rates)have led to the development of automatic sanitizer dispensers. Their efficacy against most bacteria and viruses (not all) is not questionable and their use in what may prove to be an upcoming epidemic is beneficial to all. Many schools now have them (at least in my neck of the woods). Piano teachers would be wise to consider upgrading their sanitation efforts since they do not have control over students outside their studios and are in the relatively high risk category, much like doctors and their waiting rooms!
I apologize for the diatribe, but the subject matter is important and the data clear cut.

Last edited by Andromaque; 08/29/09 09:05 PM.
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