If you die, it’s because you didn’t wash your hands

… but our hearts go out to your family anyways.

One of my self-appointed tasks is to contribute to the news thread at PFI_Forum by finding articles documenting who has died from the new H1N1.

After describing someone’s death in bland and often uninformative ways, most of these stories end with the state or national public health spokesperson suggesting that it is important to wash your hands frequently.

Well, that’s true. You should wash your hands often. But what does that have to do with the death that was just reported? Are they saying that the person who died was dirty and that’s why he or she died? Because that is the clear implication. The truth is that flu is mostly spread by respiratory droplets, something that washing your hands will not help. If you want to avoid getting the flu, the best way is stay home. The second best way is to wear a respirator that will protect you from inhaling flu droplets. The admonition about washing hands is intended to reassure people that if they only do this simple thing, they won’t get infected. This is misleading at best and an outright lie at worst.

The second scripted snippet that appears in almost every announcement of a death is the following :

“Our hearts go out to the family for their loss”

Really? Does it? I’m not so sure. Because if the people who are saying that really cared, would they mislead everyone about why the person died? You know, like implying they died because they were dirty?

To any public health official who is offended by this blog:

Wash your hands!

And my heart goes out to your family. Really, it does.


2 thoughts on “If you die, it’s because you didn’t wash your hands

  1. Washing your hands is certainly a good idea, but it is not sufficient. Putting surgical facemasks on people with the disease is also a good idea. However, if you want to be certain that you will not be infected, you will need to wear a good quality respirator.

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