At the start of World War II, the British government created a famous poster (right) that was designed to boost morale in case the country was invaded. Once the war ended, the posters were destroyed, but a few managed to survive—and an iconic quote was born.
The same message was conveyed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and CDC Acting Director Richard Besser, MD, during their marathon H1N1/swine flu media junket to the Big 3 networks yesterday (NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’ Face the Nation and ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos).
“We’re seeing encouraging signs, and that makes us all very happy,” Dr. Besser told Stephanopoulos, even as cases continue to be reported.
“What we do when we get a virus, we look to see if it relates to any other viruses,” he explained. “And then we look for things that are called virulence factors—those things that in the past have been linked to more severe disease. And what we’ve found is that we’re not seeing the factors that were associated with the 1918 pandemic; we’re not seeing the factors that are/were associated with other H1N1 viruses, and that’s encouraging.”
Ultimately, common sense should prevail and the media storm should die down.
“Everything you need to know about preventing a pandemic, you learned in kindergarten,” says Maurice A. Ramirez, DO, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Disaster Preparedness and founding chair of the American Board of Disaster Medicine. His fundamental list of precautions echoes the CDC’s recommendations:
- Wash your hands.
- Cover your mouth with your elbow when you sneeze.
- Keep your hands to yourself (six-foot separations between people helped in SARS).
- Don’t share cups, glasses or silverware.
- Masks make you feel better but don’t offer much protection.