Ebola: What You Can Do

Get a flu shot.

The latest fear mongering over the Ebola virus is just not a healthy thing. While thousands in West Africa are being infected and dying and suffering from a relentless, violent disease … we are expecting our neighborhoods to suffer the same devasting consequences. It makes us suspicious of our neighbors and those that are not like ourselves. That’s not healthy in itself.

If you want to read what I think is a good examination on the American take on Ebola, read the op-ed article in the New York Times by Frank Bruni at

Mr. Bruni, former restaurant critic for the newspaper, reminds us that in matters that we can control we don’t do such a hot job … like the flu. He says, “During the 2013-2014 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 46 percent of Americans received vaccinations against influenza, even though it kills about 3,000 people in this country in a good year, nearly 50,000 in a bad one.”

Every time I read about Ebola I think about kitchens and restaurants because that’s where I have spent more of my adult work life … either working or writing about. Workers coming in sick. We always need them to come in. Workers infecting others if they cough into the open air or don’t wash hands are common ways to reduce an already short workforce. More flu shots, more good personal hygiene and a respect for your fellow worker’s health as well as your own will result in greater productivity, fewer folks sick and a robust stuff.

Ebola cannot be transmitted through the air. Have you been in the Metro lately, a doctor’s office, a crowded festival or dining room? Airborne infectious disease season is upon us and I don’t see any fear in our hearts or much concern. Because of my lung transplant and lowered immune system, I look at the world differently than I did a year ago. I had made a conclusion that maybe we were too clean and thus more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Now I wear a procedure mask in what I call compromised situations that I cannot control i.e. the Metro, doctor’s offices, hospitals, crowds etc. I haven’t gotten over looking different … I know I am safer. Wash your hands. It’s what we should do … Ebola or no Ebola.

Whenever I read about Ebola or healthcare outbreaks, hand washing is near the top of the easy things we can do. We are ahead of most of the public … we live good health practices every day … do it at home as well. It doesn’t take long in a public restroom to see the lack of proper hand washing skills (or none at all) … or worse filthy facilities with cold water only and lack of a decent soap.

Ebola is a killer and it’s killing our West African neighbors while growing at an exponentially significant pace. I am proud of all the healthcare workers that place themselves on the frontline knowing they are at risk. It is a bravery I am not familiar with but learn more about each day. And when they travel as volunteers to West African to offer their professional skills and service, then we want to remove them from our world when they return.

I got my flu shot.

About the Author

Michael Birchenall is Editor and Publisher of Foodservice Monthly, a regional trade publication covering the foodservice industry of the Mid-Atlantic (DE, DC, MD, VA). Foodservice Monthly has been recognized as the Restaurant Association of Maryland's Allied Industry Member of the Year and by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington as the Joan Hisaoka Associate Member of the Year.

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