Social Distancing. What in the world is that?? It’s a new concept for Cordovans…a concept completely foreign to those of us who shake hands with a few of the folks on Main Street… and hug most of the others. Social Distancing. It refers to the process of distancing oneself from others in order to avoid getting sick. Basically, you decrease your risk of contracting the flu by increasing your social distance. Influenza spreads from person to person through the social contact network. Therefore, understanding and strategically controlling this network during a period of pandemic is critical.
Social distancing may be instituted during a flu outbreak and includes such measures as:
- Avoiding close contact (i.e. being within about 6 feet) with others. Droplet spread is defined as large droplets (particles >5 mcm) generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This is the predominant mechanism of influenza virus transmission. Therefore, people who are less than 6 feet from infected people have the greatest risk of infection.
- Avoiding enclosed spaces containing crowds.
- Possibly wearing facemasks. Information on the effectiveness of facemasks and respirators for decreasing the risk of influenza infection in community settings is extremely limited. See http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/masks.htm for more information on masks, to help determine if and when they should be used.
- Partial or full closures of schools, childcare centers, and nonessential businesses, as well as cancellations of public gatherings.
- A system of isolation or quarantine. Isolation and quarantine are used to protect the public by preventing exposure to infected persons or to persons who may be infected. Isolationis used to separate ill persons who have a communicable disease from those who are healthy. Isolation restricts the movement of ill persons to help stop the spread of certain diseases. Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms. Quarantine can also help limit the spread of communicable disease.
No one act, alone, will guarantee that the flu will not be spread…but social distancing practices, collectively, can help provide a degree of protection to the community as a whole. Hopefully, we’ll never see these measures taken in Cordova…but, if they ever are, we’ll know why.
Be prudent. Be ready. Be prepared. Be distant.