Joe Collier on manoeuvres for avoiding Mexican flu

Professor Joe Collier Mexican (swine) flu is clearly a threat. It is difficult to know exactly how best to avoid being infected, and although the risks for a Londoner are remote here are some changes I now make in my day-to-day life in an attempt to stave contagion off.


1. I never travel eastwards on the Piccadilly line (this is the line from Heathrow airport and so carrying incoming airline passengers)

2. I do not sit in those bus or train seats arranged so that passengers sit directly opposite one another and so close that their knees nearly touch. Instead I choose the side-on seats that run lengthwise along the carriage or coach.

3. If possible I sit at end-seats so halving the number of possibly contagious neighbours 
if someone near me coughs or sneezes I immediately move.

4. I do not touch hand-me-down (other people’s) “free” newspapers (eg Metro, London Lite). One never knows the state of health of the previous reader.

5. On meeting people I avoid shaking hands (colleagues) and refrain from kissing (friends)
I wash my hands much more frequently (and thoroughly).

What else could/should I do?

Oh, and, by the way, time and again we hear from officials that this new flu is responding well to oseltamivir (Tamiflu). How on earth do “they” know?

There are no control data as such and it could be the mildness of this particular strain rather than the effect of the drug that explains why patients appear to be managing the symptoms so well. Moreover, by using the drug’s brand name and making such claims one might be forgiven for thinking that ministers etc are acting as agents for the manufacturer!   

Joe Collier is emeritus professor of medicines policy at St George’s, University of London