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 flu.
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.
If you're one of those people who brag, come flu season, that you "never, ever get sick," be aware: The odds may catch up to you. Every year, about 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get influenza, according to estimates from the CDC.
Taking certain antiviral drugs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms can shorten the duration of the flu, but that involves recognizing you have the flu, getting in touch with your doctor, and going to the pharmacist before the 48 hours is up.
Just in case your number...
"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 soap.
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.