Halloween extra scary this year due to swine flu
Mary Gazze, CTV.ca News
Published Friday, October 30, 2009 3:17PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 12:08AM EDT
Ghouls, goblins and demons are standard on Halloween, but what is really scary to some people this year is the threat of swine flu being passed around with all the candy.
And if you're going to a crowded party or out to a bar or big nightclub, at least one expert says you may want to go the more low-key route instead.
"It might be a good night to stay home and watch TV," says infectious disease specialist Dr. Donald Low of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, explaining that people need to weigh whether the fun they'll have is worth the potential risk of catching H1N1 in a hot, sweaty, crowd where there is no way to know if the room is festering with germs.
"You're putting yourself into close proximity with a number of individuals you know nothing about. You don't know if they're being responsible. All you need is somebody in there who has a mild case of H1N1 even yelling, coughing, or sneezing" to spread disease.
Some people might be "foolish enough to go out bar hopping and partying, that have symptoms and they shouldn't be, they should be staying home," he says, explaining that small parties are okay, but crowded parties pose a bigger problem.
"If it's a large, crowded venue where you're having people almost cheek to cheek...we increase the risk."
CTV.ca put in a number of calls to different bars and nightclubs in the Toronto area asking about whether they are taking any precautions to prevent the spread of swine flu, like providing hand sanitizers. Their public relations people said managers were too busy preparing for Halloween events to reply.
One event that is always a packed sell-out is the screening of Halloween cult classic film "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at the Mayfair theatre in Ottawa. It expects to sell close to 1,000 tickets this weekend.
Fans will likely be spending more time heckling the film as is tradition, than thinking about swine flu prevention.
The theatre said it hasn't really thought of taking any kind of H1N1 precautions because people are all facing the screen.
"As far as I know, it hasn't even been a topic of conversation," Lee Demarbre, the theatre's programmer said. "If I was sick, I wouldn't go. We're assuming that anyone that has swine flu is smart enough not to bring their bodies to our cinema."
For kids, Halloween fun means not staying in, but dressing up and venturing out on a door-to-door hunt for goodies, sometimes in the cold. Sick children should stay home, but some parents of healthy children are worried that going to so many different homes could put their kids at risk.
One mother says most parents on her block will go 'destination' trick or treating -- just going to the homes of the people they know and not random houses.
"Now that kids are dying from this, there is a concern," says Danielle Christopher, 36, from Langley, B.C., who has two daughters, 3, and 1.
"There's a lot of kids that are sick in our neighbourhood. I'm nervous," she says. Fears seem to have escalated since 13-year-old Evan Frustaglio, an otherwise seemingly healthy hockey player from Toronto died suddenly after being diagnosed.
In Atlantic Canada, at least one person is taking things further, by posting notices demanding that the 100 families in the town of Ostrea Lake, N.S. cancel trick-or-treating because of swine flu.
And even though she may be taking extra precautions, Christopher in B.C. admits that she doesn't want to go too far and turn her kids into shut-ins.
"It's good to be cautious, but also you can't be too paranoid, otherwise we'd never leave the house," says Christopher.
Low says parents don't need to worry because trick-or-treating doesn't put kids at any more at risk than living day to day in the community.
"The kind of contact you would have going out in Halloween is probably one of the safer things you could be doing," he says.
"There's fresh air, lots of space, as opposed to school where you're locked inside a closed facility in close contact with a number of kids."
And what about parents like Christopher, who say that putting little hands into a bowl of candy is "gross" because they could leave germs for the next hands?
Low says that since candies are individually wrapped, there should be no problem, but if parents have concerns, a bottle of hand sanitizer is "more than adequate" protection.
"There are potential risks, but when you put it in the context of what we are doing, everyday we are also exposing ourselves to risk," explains Low.
"Whatever they want to do for Halloween, I'm sure they've been planning it for weeks. There's no reason to throw away your plans," he says.