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Maybe Howie Mandel has the right idea!

September 09, 2009 - The airwaves have been inundated with news of the impending swine flu or H1N1 influenza, which gives it a more ominous sounding! And speaking of ominous, the World Health Organization predicts that within two years, nearly one-third of the world's population will have caught it! "What we know is, it's brand new and no one really has an immunity to this disease," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius says.

So there you have it. It is almost a foregone conclusion that many of us will contract the swine flu this winter and predictably, thousands will die. I can't help but hearken back to last year's predictions though about the swine flu when it first appeared in Mexico. Schools closed and everyday we were subjected to on-air bulletins about the number of cases being detected in our communities. When all was said and done it was another Y2K fiasco much ado about nothing!

Now hopefully I'm not close-minded and bull headed enough to ignore the exhortations and will no doubt get my annual flu shot as I have done for the last ten years but subjecting myself to a relatively untested swine flu shot is another concern. Certainly I want to avoid the swine flu but I really want some assurance that the testing, which is currently underway, has proven the vaccine to be safe. Frankly we won't know the side effects for quite some time so maybe this will be the year that I will just "gut it out" which I guess is an inappropriate comment because I will be doing just that if I contract the flu!

In any event there are some things that I will be doing to avoid the flu:

+ Drinking loads of water as suggested by the medical community

+ Exercising regularly supposedly exercise moves the lymphatic system, thereby helping to detoxify the poisons in our bodies.

+ Washing hands often

+ And as Howie Mandel, the comedian suggests do not shake hands with strangers or even friends. Mandel may be a bit extreme because he actually built himself a second home on his property - a sterile home, where he goes if he fears a family member is ill with a cold or the flu. He has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and mysophobia (fear of germs) to the point that he does not shake hands with anyone.

Now that may sound a bit extreme (although the second home sounds kind of intriguing) but short of everyone donning medical masks and surgical gloves it resonates with me and perhaps with many of you. The first item of concern for me though is the customary shaking of hands or in some cases the embrace that us Catholics engage in at Mass. And I suspect that other religions too participate in some type of friendship recognition at their services. This is not an innocuous practice because after each "kiss of peace" as it is called, the aroma of Purell permeates the church many of the parishioners are cleansing their hands for fear of contracting some type of infection!

So with flu season approaching here is my proposal: let's disband this practice of handshakes in churches, synagogues, and places of worship for the entire winter. How about a simple clanking of knuckles as Howie Mandel does or maybe just a pleasant smile. Candidly we need more smiling in this world. So if you approach me in church or on the street or at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant (one of my favorite haunts) don't look for a handshake but a broad, toothy smile and yes, even as a senior citizen, I still have all my teeth!

Bill Kalmar is a Lake Orion resident who often writes for the Review.

Bill is a guest columnist for The Review. He is from Lake Orion.
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