I was reminded just how worried some people are about the pending flu season when I spotted a number of them wearing disposable masks  during my subway commute this week. I suspect the number of mask-wearers will increase as we get into October, traditionally the kick-off for supermarket flu vaccine programs, and the start of seasonal flu  time.
This year matters are a bit more complicated with the H1N1 swine flu  which, ironically, attacks people you’d normally consider less vulnerable to these types of bugs.
We’re still waiting to see whether supermarkets will be able to vaccinate people against H1N1. Leslie Sarasin, president of the Food Marketing Institute , wrote a letter  to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August reminding them that supermarkets already have well-established seasonal flu programs in place, and that adapting that infrastructure to handle swine flu vaccines would be no problem.
“Vaccinations by pharmacists are now legal in 49 states and the supermarket industry has a major presence in all 49 of these states,” wrote Sarasin. “Our members are located in urban, suburban and rural areas across America and operate more than 14,000 pharmacies. We are an industry that touches every geographic area and segment of the population.”
Whether the CDC will use supermarkets for swine flu immunizations remains to be seen. Right now, the government is rushing just to get an effective vaccine to market by mid-October.
Already five populations have been identified as having priority access to the vaccine, including school-age children and pregnant women — a total of 159 million individuals.
For the rest of us, there’s prevention to think about. I received an email from someone representing Dr. Erika Schwartz, medical director of Cinergy Health , with her tips on swine flu prevention. I thought they were pretty common sense, and so share them with you. Retailers should know that FMI has a very informative pamphlet  that can be downloaded from their website and customized with your logo and own information.
In the meantime, cover your mouth, and Gesundheit:
Dr. Schwartz’s Swine Flu Prevention Tips:
1. Wash your hands as often as you can and certainly before you eat.
2. Do not touch your face and mouth with your hands.
3. Get 8 hours of sleep every night.
4. Eat three meals a day that balance complex carbohydrates, protein and are chock full of fruit and vegetables. Stay away from prepared and preserved foods.
5. Drink 6 glasses of water and 2 cups of green tea a day.
6. Exercise 6 days a week to feel better, not to exhaustion.
7. Stay away from sick people and don’t go to work if you are sick.
(Photo credit: Josh Westbrook)