This past weekend I attended the home opening game of my hometown NFL team. As one might imagine, the game had all the trappings of the first contest of the NFL season: an electric and eternally optimistic atmosphere, ravenous “beverage” swilling fans, the heady aroma of grilled delectables and the refreshing hint of fall air (okay, the temp. was in the mid 80’s but I can dream can’t I). I was truly caught up in the moment, sort of like a crazed fan during the days when gladiators faced off with lions and tigers and bears and such. Yes, I had died and gone to football Utopia along with roughly seventy thousand others. And then it hit me— like a ton of bricks—
As I scanned the crowd I suddenly remembered that I worked for the American Red Cross and that the biggest thing on our radar at this point is dispensing information to folks regarding swine flu. I then thought about the primary modes of flu transmission— touching virus- laden objects and then touching one’s eyes nose or mouth and inhaling respiratory droplets emitted by others. My mind quickly rewound to images of the hundreds if not thousands of people who were touching the handrails of the escalators and stairs as they made their way to the Dome… the literally thousands of people who were shoulder-to-shoulder and sometimes cheek-to-cheek on the subway train… the man who stood in front of me in the restroom and sneezed without covering his mouth and nose… the literally hundreds of fans who gave spontaneous high fives to each other following a first down or a touchdown. It was then I that came to the troubling realization that in other cities throughout the U.S., similar football spectacles were being staged, all having the same ingredients as the game that I was so thoroughly enjoying. Alas, a dark albeit small cloud of concern had come to rain on my football parade.
Now my intent is not scare hardboiled football fans or to discourage them from attending games because doing so would be akin to trying to convince someone that they don’t need oxygen. I just want everyone to be aware that the start of football season— college, pro and little league— coincides with the start of flu season and with a predicted spike in swine flu activity. With that said, there are measures that we all can take to protect ourselves and other fans:
- Wash your hands before, during and after your visits to sports venues.
- Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy in your pocket.
- Cover your mouth and nose with tissue when you sneeze or cough.
- Avoid close contact with someone who is sneezing or coughing.
- If you’re sick— STAY HOME and watch the game on television.
So, fellow football fans, its okay to go to the game, have a good time and make a lot of memories. Just use a little caution and common sense. Stay safe, and may your team or teams go all the way!!!
For flu tips go to http://atlantaredcross.org\