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H1N1 Swine Flu Holiday Party Etiquette

How to keep an unwelcome guest -- swine flu -- out of your holiday party.

The Correct Way to Greet Your Guests

Hugs, kisses, and handshakes are wonderful ways to say hello and express that you are happy to see your guests. These expressions of welcome are also wonderful ways for swine flu germs to spread. As a result, many people today are avoiding close social contact. "To a degree, many of us already are practicing what I might call 'social distancing light,'" Schaffner says. "They are being more cautious and more cognizant."

When avoiding hugs and handshakes, be mindful about providing an explanation. "You're choosing to interact socially with people, so if you're not going to shake you need to say with words what the handshake would have said: Sorry, I'm off handshakes for the season, but it's really nice to meet you," Post says.

If you do shake hands, clean up discreetly afterward. "Wash your hands after the contact," says Aaron Glatt, MD, president and CEO of New Island Hospital in Beth Page, Long Island, N.Y. "Try not to touch your eyes or mouth, which could transmit infection."


Holiday Party Accessories

This season, the must-have holiday party accessories are hand sanitizer, tissues, and personal towels. "Hand sanitizer is going to be your best bet in a social situation," says Sandra Fryhofer, MD, clinical associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine, past president of the American College of Physicians, and a member of the Adult Immunization Advisory Board.

When you're setting the table, hand sanitizer makes the perfect finishing touch. Add ribbons and other decorative touches to make the bottle more festive. "It doesn't have to be boring," Fryhofer says. "You can find hand sanitizer in all colors. You can probably find one that matches your decor." Encourage your guests to use hand sanitizer after shaking hands and before eating.

Place tissue boxes in strategic locations throughout the room. You might even carry a small pack around with you. Then when you see someone sneezing, you will have a tissue ready to offer.

Rather than have guests share the same hand towel in the bathroom, buy a stack of inexpensive washcloths or disposable towels. Place a little basket next to them with one used washcloth or crumpled towel inside to show your guests what you want them to do.


How to Serve Your Guests

While preparing food, remember to follow the rules of good hygiene. "As a host, you should always wash your hands before setting the table or serving any food," Post says. "It's so easy to forget that when you're in your own home."

Although most flu virus transmission is caused by close contact with someone who is sick, it doesn't hurt to be on the safe side when serving food.  Instead of putting out large bowls of food for your guests to share, offer them single-serving portions. Fill up little shot glasses with nuts, or serve individual, bite-sized foods such as mini quiches or pizzas. "One of the stylish things now is putting hors d'oeuvres in a little spoon," Fryhofer says. "It might be a good idea this season to spoon it rather than finger it to keep your hands out of your mouth."

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