Friday, May 1, 2009


We just had a meeting about our "plan" for the H1N1 virus (formerly known as Swine Flu). So we are stockpiling hand sanitizer and masks and will be distributing both to our students and staff. Apparently there is a run on both these items so we sent someone to the local huge quantity store right away to get them before they sold out.

I guess it has escaped everybody's notice that hand sanitizers and most masks do little to prevent the spread of the virus.

From what I understand the kinds of mask needed to help protect one from infection are N95 particulate masks...basically hospital grade. They are more effective when infected people use then to prevent spreading the virus but their ability to prevent a healthy person form catching the virus is questionable.

As for hand sanitizers...they claim to kill bacteria, not viruses and their efficacy in killing bacteria is questionable for those that contain less that 60% alcohol(although that hasn't stopped me from pumping mine a whole lot more than normal). Check out your hand sanitizer...does it claim to kill viruses? Mine says "germs"* (which means bacteria). So they probably will not kill the N1H1 virus. It might but I have not found anything that says it will.

Anyhow, I just sat there saying nothing because I don't want to be the bitch who injects a bit a fact into our plans.

I know there are some medical types out there who probably know more than I do (Am I high on germ-X fumes here?) but a few google searches of non-advertisement sites tell me that masks and sanitizers really don't do much other than make us feel safer.

Even our Campus health professional was buying into the mask/sanitizer I shut my trap. The only thing that would come out of my saying something would be me being seen as a contrarian, know-it-all.

I'm not judging anyone who uses sanitizers or masks (Ok little judgment on the masks becasue really...seems kind-of dramatic especially if you are in an areas without any infections). My own hands are so dry from all the sanitizer but I do think we should understand that these are largely measures to make us feel safer....not make us safe.

But the sanitizer and mask companies are going to make a mint!


Riley said...

Agreed - I have a friend in the medical supply business and he said they can't get the masks and sanitizers out quick enough. He should have a nice commission this month if nothing else!

Andrea said...

I agree, I don't think the masks are really all that beneficial. I went to get blood drawn the other day and the lab had a stack of masks sitting out for patients. I had to chuckle. Thank goodness no one was wearing one or I would have had to chuckle louder!

Marie said...

If you want to get technical about the Lysol wipes would be the best thing to carry with you as they are effective at killing the flu virus. I am not carrying either myself but I do have cans at home and one at the office and if a case is confirmed in our Tx town that will be my plan of action.

kate said...

Here, here! I keep thinking the same thing, but keeping it to myself instead.

We had a dinner the other night with some of H's colleagues, and one of them was due to fly to South America in a few days, and she reported that her plan for being in an enclosed space for many hours was to spread antibacterial gel over her face and mouth area periodically.

I just bit my tongue.

I mean, (no prejudice intended here, but) she was a prof in the music department and a non-native english speaker, so maybe she didn't hear the direct contradiction when she said, "I'll just use that antibacterial gel to prevent the virus." Maybe she really doesn't know that bacterial infections and viral infections are two different "bugs". Maybe she never needed to learn the specific English nuanced difference between "virus" and "bacteria".

I mean, I'm not a scientist (and I was a music major for several years before switching to philosophy), but I still know the difference. How do people really not know that???


Oh, well. I think, like you said, it makes us feel better, and if that's what people need at this point, then I guess that's what they should do.

Renovation Girl said...

We had a similar meeting at work, too...our principal, when asked if the school could provide us with Lysol wipes to clean surfaces in our classrooms, indignantly said, "Just tell them to sneeze into a tissue." Um...okay...thanks for that...

Sky said...

I'm really middle of the road on this stuff. For the most part, I usually think common precautions help in that they make you more conscious of keeping your hands clean and steering clear of people who are obviously sick (when possible - then again, I work on an enormous campus with thousands others in my company - I mean, how far away can I be, really?).

Hey, I'm reaching out to all the gals who comment on my blog to let ya'll know I'm going undercover :) (just making my blog private)

Please send me an email to so I can add you to the list. You'll only have to sign in once then and check off "remember me" and I think that's it, it'll be open to you always in future.


charmedgirl said...

we learned in [medical school] that the face masks last approx 15 minutes before the wetness of your breath frees up the flow. unless you're gonna switch up with a new mask every 15...