As a piano teacher, many of my students are children. And as children are the best bug-breeders around, I am annually subject to many diseases. Among them are strep throat, flu, colds, and upper respiratory infections of all sorts.

And, or course, it is the piano keyboard that is the source of these infections--retransmitting from their hands!

Over the course of the years I have learned, through bitter experience, a variety of things to do to reduce my chances of catching something (though I never get away without something). I call them my high infection protocol:

  1. Never touch my face until I have washed my hands.
  2. Never blow my nose until I have washed my hands.
  3. Never touch the piano keys.
  4. Never touch the students' hands.
  5. Wash my hands after every lesson, so I can do the above.
  6. Take zinc, and vitamin A every day.
  7. Try to sleep well every night.
  8. Get a flu shot every year.
  9. Keep happy.

The first four steps are very difficult--I usually need to rub my eyes, or blow my nose at the most inoportune time. But I can hardly take several days off everytime I get sick--and I don't want to get sick! It isn't fun.

When my father was in Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, I seem to remember those same signs. In hospitals, of course, this is generally for the staff, so they won't infect the patients.

In my school, the teachers do this to protect themselves. Having been sick, we are cautious.

themusic's writeup above reminds me of the slogan on the sign above many of the sinks here in Concord Hospital (the Olympic Hospital, btw), Sydney -- "Hand washing sinks Staph", which means that even the most virulent and drug resistant bug, MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staph. aureus) will not be transmitted between patients if health staff, especially lazy doctors, wash their hands properly between seeing each patient.

Having said this, it is painfully obvious that most hand washing techniques are simply insufficient to kill enough bacteria to prevent cross contamination between patients. The best one can hope for in a big hospital is the reduction of risk. Really clean hands require scrubbing, not just hand washing. This takes too much time to be practical when going from one patient to the next.

Staph. aureus and Streptococci are ubiquitous creatures. They normally colonize human skin and throat, respectively. It's ok to get the flu 2 maybe 3 times a year, and Staph may cause a gastroenteritis. The frequeny of these infections should decrease with time, however, as your immune system develops strategies to combat them. If this is not the case then consider that there might be a problem (are you underweight? do you over exert yourself? etc).

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