CDC bulletin: Swine Flu and You

As winter approaches, cases of the H1N1 virus are expected to increase. We at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to encourage you to get vaccinated, cover your cough and wash your hands as the first line of defense against H1N1, commonly known as “swine flu” or “bacon fever.” Many of you have asked for more specific guidance, so we’ve expanded our official flu recommendations.

When covering your cough or sneeze, here are some basic rules for maximum safety: If you cough or sneeze into a tissue, throw it away immediately. Under no circumstances should you place it on someone else’s face, clothing, sandwich, toothbrush, open wound or bodily orifice. If a tissue isn’t available, cough into your sleeve, and then wash or destroy your sleeve by burning it in a bonfire or dipping your entire arm in a vat of sulfuric acid. If your sleeve is not readily available (e.g., if you’ve burned it following a previous sneeze), it is OK to cough into something else, but avoid using another person’s face. Instead, try to find something that you can destroy immediately afterward, ideally something other than a Bible or American flag.

After you’ve coughed or sneezed into something and destroyed it, it’s important to wash your hands. Here’s how: Get your hands wet using clean, warm water. If warm water is not available, use whatever is available, perhaps tepid water, cool water or natural artesian water. Avoid dirty water, sports drinks, goat’s milk or urine.

When your hands are wet, lather them up with soap and scrub for 20 seconds, which is about how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” or the “Five Dollar Foot Long” jingle four times. Then rinse your hands in more clean, warm water. Here’s where it gets tricky: turning off the water. Because you turned on the faucet when your hands were dirty, the faucet is now covered with deadly germs. Therefore, you should use a paper towel to turn off the faucet. If a paper towel is not available, burn down the building. Finally, dry your hands.

Only you can decide for sure when to wash your hands, but here are our latest recommendations. You should wash your hands when they are dirty. Also, always wash your hands after handling raw meat, after you’ve used the restroom, or both. Here are some other instances in which hand-washing is a good idea:

Wash them after someone with the swine flu sneezes or coughs on them. Wash them after searching a Dumpster for food and/or medicine or after hurling your feces at other primates. It’s also important to wash your hands before and after flossing or picking your nose, before and after gagging yourself to induce vomiting, before hailing a cab (finger whistlers only) and any time somebody says, “Hey, your hands are dirty!” Wash them twice after watching a U of L football game or reading Courier-Journal “storychats.”

Wash your hands after reading a Braille copy of the Kama Sutra or after touching a high-traffic public place likely to be germ infested, such as a stair handrail, elevator button, United States congressman or college basketball coach. Wash your hands before and after performing surgery, especially on humans or swine. If you’ve been juggling rats or cockroaches, be sure to wash your hands. You should also wash them any time they are visibly covered with smegma.

Another important time to wash your hands is after you use your index finger to clean your ear, then use it to clean your belly button, then use it to dispose of the carcass of a dead squirrel by wrapping the remains in a newspaper (because newspapers get ink all over you).

Here’s another important time to give your hands a thorough washing: after you’ve already washed them and started to dry them but you dropped the towel on the floor and picked it up but then realized the floor is germy and so you should probably start all over again. Repeat as necessary.

This CDC bulletin does not cover all instances in which you should wash your hands, nor does it cover every possible way to properly cough or sneeze. Don’t even get us started on hand sanitizers. Or ferrets. We will update this bulletin as new information becomes available. Frankly, our hands are chapped from all the washing and it’s getting a little hard to type. Wish us luck.