Monday, June 08, 2009

Frequent Hand Washing

The Swine Flu has hit AUC campus. Two cases have been confirmed by the WHO and the dormitories in Zamalek have been quarantined. Students are apparently walking around campus with masks on. And once Andrew comes home today he gets another week of vacation. All classes and activities on campus have been suspended until June 14th--so I guess campus is basically quarintined, as well.

I will admit that I am a little paranoid when I'm pregnant. I think most pregnant ladies are. Swine flu is, of course, a worry everywhere, but we live in a "developing country." Health standards aren't exactly what I'd call up to par here, not that I'm a medical expert or anything. And not only are we in a developing country, we're in one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with 9,031 people per km2.

Although I only come in contact with two other people on a regular basis (Andrew and Rachel--so I'm a bit of a homebody recently, sue me), on any given day I could risk coming in contact with several hundreds, if not thousands of people. Complete strangers that I know little about. That one like sunflower seeds, this one just went shopping, that one smokes too much, etc. Who knows what their hygine is like? Who knows how many other hundreds and thousands of people they have been in contact with that day?

Most natives here cough frequently, so I wonder how I'm supposed to know if they've come down with the swine flu or if they just have lung cancer from chain-smoking from the time they were eight years old.

In Russia there is a huge thing about washing your hands the minute you enter the door. This is especially relevant if you had ridden any mode of public transportation like a bus or metro. Russians fear the flu like nothing else; they call it "grip." Babies don't go out in public for months after their birth, for fear of contracting "grip" and the minute anyone arrives home from anywhere (work, school, skating lessons, etc) they wash their hands, thoroughly.

I remember watching an episode of Саша + Маша (Sasha+Masha) once and they were riding the metro, but the flu was going around so they were very comically avoiding contact with everyone and everything. I'm sure you can imagine trying to ride a crowded metro without holding onto anything or bumping into anyone while managing to not fall over the whole time.

We only ride the metro here occasionally, but I think I'll start being a little more vigilant about using hand sanitizer when we disembark. I read on the CDC website that in order to lower risk of exposure to novel influenza A (H1N1) pregnant ladies should exercise frequent handwashing. That's good science, right there.

We've known for years that washing hands decreases the spread of disease, haven't we? That's why we like profssionals like doctors and hamburger flippers to wash their hands before returning to work, right? That's what all those stickers in gas station restrooms are there to remind us about, right? So it is sound advice. However, I wonder how many pregnant ladies out there don't already wash their hands frequently. As a pregnant lady, I wash my hands all the time, and it isn't simply because we've got a potential pandemic on our hands (no pun intended). It's because I am using the restroom probably 5 times more often than I do in an unimpregnanted condition. That guess may even be a little low.

I'm so diligent about washing my hands frequently that I get up several times in the night to wash my hands. I'd probably be less tired if I didn't, but one can never be too careful (plus I stopped wetting the bed years ago).


  1. Intersting that AUC should have confirmed cases after the governemnt so wisely slaughtered all the pigs in Egypt! Did yuo read tha tarticle on BBC? It was quite awhile ago. Stay vigilant and good luck!

  2. Interesting that is Russia, the Flu is Grip. In Brazil, it's also Grip (pronounced Gree-pee with the accent on the first syllable). I was wondering where they got that. Of course, that's also the word for the common cold too.

  3. This H1N1 flu thing is so out of hand, and honestly, I'm sick of hearing about it. The flu that's always going around, primarily winter time, is worse and more deadly than the "swine flu" is. And yes, washing your hands, etc., is great! Face masks? That's actually lame. There is no reason for the face mask, UNLESS you are pregnant, elderly, have a compromised immune system, that sort of thing. It's blown way out of proportion! In Egypt though, I am unsure if they have the means of fighting it like we do in the USA. The treatment is the same as the regular flu. If you have any questions, I will gladly answer them for you.

  4. As an equally pregnant lady I will confirm that PLs wash their hands more than anybody on the planet. I'm guessing between 15 and 20 times in any given 24 hr period.

    That's not including the frequent hand sanitizer slatherings.... I suppose this explains why my hands are SO dry!

  5. Hello, my name is Abra and I'm a frequent handwasher. I also really like lotion. I have soap and lotion by all the sinks in my house. I don't really see a problem... :)

  6. I am also a frequent handwasher, though I am also paranoid about illnesses and this whole swine flu deal. I make my kids wash their hands many times during the day too. I hope that everything goes well over there, Nancy. You're all in my prayers.

  7. I feel like my hands are going raw because I wash them so often now. (Like you, it's partially because of the pregnancy thing.) Hand sanitizer is my friend-- especially since my coworker in the neighboring cubicle has a sister who just got diagnosed with the swine flu. I hope you guys all steer clear of it!

    And yes, I'm in the third trimester now! (Depending on who you ask...) Apparently it varies according to if your measuring fetal development or about twelve other things. But my Babycenter update says I'm in the third trimester, so I'm claiming it!

  8. ...and it isn't simply because we've got a potential pandemic on our hands (no pun intended).

    HILARIOUS! Nice one.

    I have to tell you...
    I was sitting at the back of the RS room, and a tall, very skinny sister came in. I just barely saw her out of the corner of my eye, and immediately thought, "oh, there's Nancy. Good, I'm glad she's here. I always like her comments." And then just as quickly I thought, "You stupid. She's in Egypt." It's funny how our mind does that, isn't it?
    Anyway, I know it's not like we were the best of friends while you lived here (in fact I don't think we ever really had a conversation), but for what it's worth; I miss seeing you around.