HEAD HELD HIGH: One way to attract attention walking along the street. GEMMA-ROSE TURNBULL
HEAD HELD HIGH: One way to attract attention walking along the street. GEMMA-ROSE TURNBULL

Dont turn your nose up

By EMMA O'NEILL

WOULD YOU wear a surgical mask to the shops?

I did. I wasn't trying to copy Michael Jackson.

I simply had a touch of the 'flu and thought I'd check out people's reactions, and take the AMA's advice.

According to the Australian Medical Association, the worst epidemic of influenza since 2003 (a bad flu year) has hit the State, and it has advised people with the dreaded lurgy to wear surgical masks in public.

NSW vice-president of the AMA, Dr Brian Morton, said a mask is not an extreme reaction. It's simply a good way to avoid spreading or contracting influenza.

"Wearing a mask is a logical way to protect yourself.

Whether it's acceptable and comfortable to wear one is another question," he said.

As I wandered along Lismore's Keen Street yesterday wearing my mask I attracted curious stares.

People kept their distance when I asked them to tell me the time.

Others seemed embarrassed by me. But embarrassment seems a small price for a potentially lifesaving gesture.

The 'flu claims thousands of lives each year. The number of people going to emergency departments this year with 'flu-like symptoms is almost double last year.

"If you're sick and sneezing, you have a good chance of spreading the disease," Dr Morton said.

Washing your hands, coughing into your sleeve, and wiping down surfaces are ways you can avoid the virus.

Another preventative is to get the 'flu vaccine.

Director of Public Health for the North Coast Area Health Service, Paul Corben, said it's not too late for people to be vaccinated.

"It just takes two weeks for antibodies to develop. The vaccination is free for people over 65 and free for Aboriginal people over 50," Mr Corben said.

As for me? I wasn't embarrassed but everyone definitely treated me differently.

I'd use a mask on public transport, but I'm not sure I'd make a habit of it walking round the shops.



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