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Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Date:9/17/2009

But there are ways to reduce your risk even in close quarters, experts say

THURSDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- With the H1N1 swine flu virus lurking in every nook and cranny, all Americans should be on guard this coming flu season.

But experts say those living and working in crowded locales -- schools, colleges, prisons, cruise ships, airplanes, military barracks -- need to be extra careful.

"Any crowded place carries a heightened risk," said Dr. Melinda Moore, a senior health researcher at the Rand Corp., in Arlington, Va. "It really has to do with people being in close quarters and having disease-transmitting behaviors such as coughing and sneezing."

"The virus is mainly spread the respiratory route, and it's also on inanimate objects like doors and knobs and handles and desktops and telephones," added Dr. Stuart Beeber, attending pediatrician at Northern Westchester Hospital Center, in Mount Kisco, N.Y. "It's mainly in close quarters where a lot of people are together, such as in classrooms or offices, potentially even movie theaters."

The danger of transmission lies not only in the fact that hordes of people are together for long periods of time, but that those hordes may not be practicing good hygiene.

"Any environment in which people are crowded together with compromised hygiene carries a heightened risk," said Dr. Dean Blumberg, an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, Davis, Children's Hospital. "It's when people don't have access to hand washing or shower facilities."

Younger children are not naturally very hygienic, Blumberg pointed out.

College students may also engage in behaviors that are friendly to the spread of the H1N1 virus, such as kissing and sharing drinks. If those drinks are alcoholic, judgment may be affected, resulting in even more unsafe behaviors. Smoking can also compromise the respiratory system,
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