Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bolivian kids are washing their hands... are you?

Interesting article in TIME about how Bolivian kids have been getting the message about washing their hands in light of the H1N1 virus, and in turn are also experiencing a decrease in other illnesses.

There was a huge scare here in July/August re: H1N1, after a rash of incidents - all kids had to wear masks to school, as did employees of government agencies, many stores, everyone working at the airport, etc. Some large public events were canceled, and some schools closed. More recently, things have relaxed significantly. A friend's kid's school closed last week for a few days because of a case of H1N1, and you still see the occasional mask (I noticed more in La Paz on a recent trip there than I see in Cochabamba).

Now, I keep hearing about friends and acquaintances or their kids in the U.S. getting the virus, and I'm not hearing about a ton of cases here. I don't know the per capita data, but I gather it is at least as big a problem in the U.S. at this point as it is in Bolivia. Of course, here we're nearing the end of the school year, and we're in springtime, so the weather is warming up but the rains haven't yet started (they're heaviest in summer, January/February). The North is getting colder and school has recently started, so it's a typical time for kids to get and spread viruses there.

Either way, this hand-washing thing is good. Much more effective than the masks. And as the article suggests - and it's also true in the U.S. - increased handwashing (with soap and water, for 20 seconds or so; not with anti-bacterial cleanser, unless you're somewhere where soap and clean water aren't available, or in a hospital or someplace that requires antiseptic measures) is a simple, important way to combat various illnesses.

It's always interesting and encouraging to me when Bolivia is highlighted in the international press for something positive like this.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm heading to the nearest lavamanos...

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