Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2009   by Jim Anderton, Technical Editor

Are You Sick?

SSGM may be the biggest aftermarket trade magazine in Canada, but when it comes to health sciences, I'll admit freely, it's not where I look for medical advice. This time, however, it's a little diffe...

SSGM may be the biggest aftermarket trade magazine in Canada, but when it comes to health sciences, I’ll admit freely, it’s not where I look for medical advice. This time, however, it’s a little different because of a health issue that has some relevance to the repair trade: swine flu. Swine flu, or more accurately, the H1N1 virus, is all over the media these days, usually described as an “epidemic” or “pandemic” with lots of scary talk about the worldwide uncontrolled spread of the virus. I think it’s time to get a few facts straight about the swine flu and the risks to the aftermarket.

This is a flu, not AIDS, not cancer or diabetes … but you’d think it’s all of these plus more from the media coverage. H1N1 and the other subtypes are common to pigs but are rarely transmitted from animals to humans. It’s not present in cooked pork products, so it’s safe to grill those sausages.

The symptoms are like, well, flu. Expect a fever, sore throat, chills, aching muscles, headache, coughing and the general weak-as-a-kitten malaise that we all know well from past flu seasons.

If you get it, you’re going to get better. This is a flu, and if you’re reasonably healthy to begin with, it will pass. Take lots of fluids, rest and take an analgesic for the aches and pains. Do you need to rush to the hospital? Probably not. Many Canadians will get this flu, recover and never know it was the swine flu strain. If your immune system is compromised by some other disease or illness, take extra precautions, but don’t panic.

Age matters … and in this case it’s one of those rare instances where being older helps. There was an outbreak in the mid-70s, so if your hair is going grey, (fair disclosure here) you may already have some resistance to the strain. Kids are more susceptible.

There will be a vaccine soon. By the time you read this, the vaccine may already be available … go get it. Forget the media hype about side effects and crazies who don’t inoculate their families … it’s free protection so take advantage of your health care tax dollars to reduce illness in the country.

This one is probably the most important: you can do simple things on the job to help stop the spread … the reason I’m talking about the swine flu is because the repair aftermarket is retail business. You probably deal with many people, and many strangers, every day. This makes your business a higher probability site for an outbreak … which can hamper your operation for sure if half the staff is home sick. It’s unbelievably simple: wash your hands! Put out bottles of hand sanitizer in the employee and customer washrooms and on the service writer’s desk. If you shake a customer’s hand, don’t touch your nose or mouth area until you can wash and/or disinfect. Be discreet. These steps can drastically reduce the chance of an outbreak in your shop. And the final point? If you’re already sick, stay home! I know you need the money, and the business can’t run without you, but what will you do if you infect the whole team?

None of this is anything but the same common sense handed down from our parents and grandparents, but we have to relearn it every once in a while. Wash your hands and don’t sneeze over people are rules most of us learn in kindergarten … so we don’t really have an excuse, do we?

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