Today’s Editorial for June 10: Don’t be a hero when sick

As expected by health officials here, the H1N1 virus – also known as swine flu – has found its way to the Cayman Islands.

So far, two residents have come down with the virus, but more cases are expected.

Although the first case caused some concern with parents of children attending the First Baptist School, health officials helped calm frayed nerves.

Swine flu made headlines when it killed a number of people in Mexico, where the current outbreak is thought to have originated. But as the virus has spread to 73 countries around the world, it hasn’t proved to be as fatal even as the ordinary seasonal influenza. Most people contracting the H1N1 virus now are getting mild cases.

Any kind of influenza can be fatal. Historically, influenza has been one of the most consistent killing diseases. It is estimated that every year, various strains of influenza, including the ordinary seasonal kind, kill about 500,000 people worldwide, including some 36,000 people in the United States.

In some ways, this outbreak of swine flu could be a good thing for the world because it has seemed to raise awareness of what people should and should not do if they come down with the virus.

Airports in Miami, for instance, now have instructions on how to wash your hands properly, which is one of the key ways people can protect themselves. The instructions advise to lather with soap at least 20 seconds; dry your hands with a towel while the water is running; and turn off the water using the towel with which you dried your hands.

Family members of those who fall ill with swine flu are asked to avoid contact with those that are sick and sleep in different rooms.

People who have symptoms of illness are asked to cover their mouths when sneezing and to throw away any tissues into which they sneeze or blow their nose.

Those with the flu are also asked to stay home from work or school, so as not to infect their colleagues or classmates. Many employees in this day and age believe showing up to work when they are sick shows dedication to the job, but if they proceed to infect an entire office, it turns out being counterproductive to a businesses efficiency.

If you are sick with a virus – whether it is H1N1 or any other kind of flu strain – we urge you to stay home. If the symptoms become severe with a high fever or breathing difficulties, seek medical attention immediately.

Swine flu might have been hyped up to be more of a threat then it really is, but if all the media attention helps people to understand the severity of influenza in general and what they should do to combat it, it could save countless lives in the future.