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 thing...so 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!