Holiday season is upon us again. As you send out the invitations and plan
the menu for your holiday party, remember that there is one guest you
definitely do not want on your guest list: swine
You might have considered canceling your holiday festivities out of fear of
H1N1. However, our flu
etiquette experts say that if you're still going about your regular business --
going to work, movies, and religious services -- there is no reason to cancel
your holiday plans.
Questions & Answers about the 2009–2010 Flu Season
What sort of flu season is expected this year?
Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways, including the timing of
the beginning, severity, and length of the flu season.
This flu season (2009-2010), there are more uncertainties than usual because
of the emergence of a new 2009 H1N1
influenza virus (previously called "novel H1N1" or "swine flu") that has
caused the first influenza pandemic (global outbreak of disease) in more than
"It's not as though the Christmas party is the only group activity we
indulge in, so we have to put it into context," says William Schaffner, MD,
chairman of the department of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University
School of Medicine and member of the board of directors of the Infectious
Diseases Society of America. "If your community is in the throes of a huge
outbreak right at that time, I suppose that would give you some pause. But I
think by and large, folks are going to Christmas and New Years' parties."
A little bit of healthful planning and some simple swine flu etiquette can
help keep unwelcome germs out of your holiday celebration.
Planning Your Flu-Free Party
An ounce of prevention is always best. Both hosts and their guests should
usher in the season by getting vaccinated against both the H1N1 and seasonal
flu viruses, if they haven't done so already.
Also remember to always practice good hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose
whenever you sneeze or cough, and wash your hands often with warm water and
Let your friends and family members know that you'd prefer they not come to
your party if they are ill. However, you must be diplomatic. A dash of humor
can smooth over a potentially awkward request. On your invitation, consider
adding a line such as, "Healthy guests only, please RSVP to:" or "Swine flu?
We'll send you a doggie bag," suggests Anna Post, etiquette expert with the
Emily Post Institute and author of Do I Have to Wear White? "It's all in
the delivery," she says.
Saying Good-bye Graciously to an Unwelcome Guest
Some guests may not heed your warnings, and will arrive at your doorstep
dressed in their finest flu germs. As host, it is your responsibility to steer
them back home, but do so in a manner that shows you are only concerned about
You might say something like, "Sarah, I would only say this to a friend, but
you look awful and you really need to go home," Post says. Send your friend
home with a box of tissues and a mug of hot tea, and promise to check in on her
later. "They might be a little offended at first, but hopefully, they'll