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Better not cough: Santa presses for H1N1 flu shots

[ 2009-11-24 10:51]     字号 [] [] []  
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Forget cookies and milk. Santa wants the H1N1 flu vaccine.

Many of America's Santas want to be given priority for the vaccine and not just because of those runny-nosed kids that will be sitting on their laps for the next month. There's also the not-so-little matter of that round belly. Research has suggested obesity could be a risk factor.

H1N1 flu has become such a worry that the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas featured a seminar on the illness at a recent conference. The group also urged its members to use hand sanitizer and take vitamins to boost their immune systems.

The president of the US organization said he also hopes parents will keep sick kids away.

"We don't want any child to go without seeing Santa, but it's not worth bringing your child to the mall, infecting the Santa and infecting the other children," Nicholas Trolli said.

He recalled a boy who informed him last year that he had a fever and had stayed home from school. But, the child said, his mother thought it was a good idea to visit Santa.

Ernest Berger, president of another group called Santa America, asked an Alabama congressman last week to designate Santas a priority group for the H1N1 flu vaccine, like health care workers or caregivers for infants.

A spokesman for Republican US Rep Jo Bonner confirmed Berger's request and said staff were looking into it.

Berger hopes Santas will use hand sanitizers and encourage children to do the same, without turning the experience into a hygiene lecture.

"It's a delicate balance here. This is not an exercise in health care. This is visiting Santa," he said. Berger estimates that about two-thirds of all American Santas are overweight, and about a third are morbidly obese.

That raises health concerns because some research has suggested obesity could be a risk factor for severe flu.

A high proportion of those who have gotten severely ill from swine flu have been obese or extremely obese. But health officials have also said that might be due to heavy people tending to have asthma and other conditions that make them more susceptible.

The 200 or so Santas who volunteer to visit sick or grieving children through Santa America will be washing their suits daily instead of weekly and will not be wearing gloves this year so they can wash their hands frequently, Berger said.

Dr. Jack Turco, director of health services at Dartmouth College, said Santa might consider greeting children from a few feet away rather than holding them on his lap, or asking children with coughs to stand in a separate line.

The problem is international: Hungarian authorities this weekend said Santa Claus should avoid kissing children and shaking their hands to prevent spreading the flu and should get vaccinated against the illness.


(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Better not cough: Santa presses for H1N1 flu shots

About the broadcaster:

Better not cough: Santa presses for H1N1 flu shots

Lee Hannon is Chief Editor at China Daily with 15-years experience in print and broadcast journalism. Born in England, Lee has traveled extensively around the world as a journalist including four years as a senior editor in Los Angeles. He now lives in Beijing and is happy to move to China and join the China Daily team.