What goes around comes around, and that applies to this column, too. One of my first extolled the benefits of medicinal chest rubbing to deal with coughs and a snotneus – a snotty nose. And in the depths of last winter I described the arrival of the H3N2 flu virus – where did that go to?
What brings all this to mind was my daily mingling with the masses as I travelled to work this morning: opposite me sat a woman kneading her mobile with two hands and coughing regularly. Holding my breath was not an option, so I suffered in silence, breathing shallowly. Well, not really in silence, for all around I could hear other insidious coughings, all heralding the resurfacing of A/H1N1 flu, or swine flu – varkensgriep.
The precautions – voorzorgsmaatregelen shown on the flu campaign’s poster do sound rather obvious, but not everyone seems to have got the message. So at the risk of boring you, here goes.
The first piece of advice is was regelmatig je handen – wash your hands regularly. I understand this to mean frequently, and it’s no bad advice. The second one is for many of my fellow travellers: bedek je mond en je neus met een papieren zakdoekje wanneer je niest – cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze. And then gooi je zakdoekjes zorgvuldig weg – throw your tissues away carefully, rather than stuffing them into your pocket for the rest of the week. No words here for those who still use pressed and ironed handkerchiefs embroidered with their initials.
And if no hanky is to hand: heb je geen zakdoekje bij de hand, bedek dan je mond en je neus – then cover your mouth and your nose. So sleeves are permissible.
And perhaps the best advice: blijf thuis als je ziek bent – stay at home if you’re ill. At the foot of the poster just to drive the message home comes the chilling line: deze eenvoudige voorzorgen kunnen levens redden – these simple precautions can save lives.
All of which makes taking the morning train sound like attempted suicide. Of course it could all be another example of crying wolf and de Mexicaanse griep could pass as a footnote. Yet it’s probably best to be safe than sorry.
And the symptoms? Well, koorts – fever, spierpijn – muscular pain, hoofdpijn – headache. And if you are struck down, de ziekte kan langer dan een week duren – the illness can last for more than a week. Having just read this through again, I’m beginning to feel a bit fluish. Look out for a notice in next week’s edition.