As infectious pathogens become resistant to medications and evolve into harder-than-ever-to-treat illnesses, we remember that total immunity from all disease is an unattainable concept. The current swine flu pandemic is the latest reminder that our coveted health hangs in the balance between individual strength and the environment that surrounds us. As a healthcare professional, the bodyworker’s environment can easily harbor any number of infectious organisms. Instead of living in fear of today’s most prominent health threat, bodyworkers can take comfort in knowing that the transmission and contagion of swine flu is no different from the acquisition of any other bacterial or viral illnesses.

To prevent the virulent and lethal flu bug pandemic of 1918 where millions of people perished, public health departments are gearing up to stop the spread of swine flu. While these measures are put into place to protect our health, it also breeds fear in those who don’t fully understand the problem. After recently working with a client who was “advising” people to ban all pork products in an effort to circumvent the swine flu, the fear surrounding this pandemic sunk in. Last year, the bird flu panic prompted a similar fear – where many people avoided eating chicken, although that had nothing to do with the virus’ transmission.

To allay common fears and misconceptions about the swine flu, bodyworkers and their clients could benefit from some basic facts and suggestions about this influenza strain:

  1. Flu viruses have a tendency to mutate and adapt, sometimes making the jump from pigs to humans (or from birds to humans).
  2. Although it originated in pigs, the strain of swine flu (H1N1) currently going around is transmitted from human to human.
  3. You cannot get swine flu from eating pork or pork products.
  4. Just like other strains of the flu, influenza is primarily spread via uncovered coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  5. Bodyworkers should reschedule clients who present cold- or flu-like symptoms, just as they would for any sick person.
  6. Antiviral chemoprophylaxis can be considered for practitioners at high risk for influenza complications who are working in an area with confirmed swine flu influenza A (H1N1) cases.
  7. The swine flu symptoms are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting.
  8. To prevent swine flu transmission, practice good hygiene just like you normally would during flu season. This includes washing your hands often with soap and water, using alcohol-based hand cleaners, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth and covering a cough or sneeze with a tissue (and then washing your hands).
  9. An often overlooked approach to flu protection is to keep the immune system in optimal shape. By paying attention to proper nutrition, getting adequate sleep, relieving pent-up stress and engaging in regular exercise, the immune system is better able to ward off a flu virus when it is encountered.
  10. If you do get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. If you have a fever and other flu symptoms and may have had contact with someone with swine flu or severe respiratory illness in the past week, see your physician. In addition to testing for H1N1 for optimal tracking, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug helpful for swine influenza.

Although massage therapists work within close proximity to their clients, they needn’t allow the threat of swine flu to create fear. Following universal precautions is part of every properly educated therapist’s hygiene routine. As such, withholding sessions from clients who are sick, washing hands between each client, disinfecting counters and surfaces (including massage tables) and providing clean linens for each person is routine. Whether concerned with the H1N1 swine flu epidemic or preventing transmission of the common cold, bodyworkers can play a part in easing the fears circulating around the 2009 swine flu outbreak.

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