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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Infectious Disease conference is in town — catch the fever

The International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases — "Where more than the laughter is contagious" (snappy tagline compliments of moi) — is taking place in Atlanta this week, and according to Reuters, scientists from New Zealand are presenting research that indicates that their countrymen are, well, kinda gross. Read on ...

Dr. Nick Wilson of Otago University, Wellington, New Zealand and colleagues had 13 medical students watch people at a train station, a hospital, and a shopping mall during August 2009 — right in the midst of the swine flu pandemic. Among 384 coughs and sneezes the students observed, fewer than 5 percent were covered up with a tissue, handkerchief, or elbow. More than a quarter weren't covered at all. Nearly two-thirds of the time people coughed and sneezed into their hands, a practice that's now frowned upon because infection may spread via unwashed hands and contaminated surfaces.

But there's hope that maybe it's just New Zealanders who like spreading their yuck.

Wilson thinks other countries should do similar studies; he suspects "large variations" in respiratory hygiene by country. Indeed, Wilson said when he visited Toronto, Canada in February he noticed much higher use of elbow coughing.

So, Atlantans, are you spewing mucus into your elbow or your disease-covered hands? Medical students might be watching ...

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