I’m usually pretty skeptical about the doom and gloom crowd trying to take over the world.

For example, the Y2K scare at the turn of the century always seemed to me to be a “whole lotta hoopla about not too much.” And it proved to be about that much trouble. While people were stashing away hundred dollar bills in wall safes and cans of tuna fish and dried noodles in the storm cellar the world seemed to pass by in a relative state of tranquility. The big winners in the Y2K marketing marathon were the wall safe, canned tuna and dried noodle companies.

The Asian flu, aka “chicken flu”, aka “Asian bird flu” passed the American sub continent with little more impact to the public health than the collective discomfort of ingrown toenails to the overall population. Apparently, it did have a rather dramatic worldwide impact, but equally apparently all the contaminated chickens were stopped at the border. Perhaps there was a border fence for Asian birds. And there have been other calls and clamors over the years preaching the end of the world as we know it due to one prophesied calamity or other.

But, this H1N1 thing, aka “swine flu,” has me more than a little rattled. As I understand it, it’s really equivalent to a very, very, very bad cold and that’s a context everybody should be able to relate to. I have had colds where I wished I had died or could have died so the prospects of a cold so bad that it would really kill you and could kill masses of people in a short time is cause for genuine concern and really no laughing matter.

The subject of bad colds, even very bad colds, is not usually something that attracts the attention of the president of the United States. But even the president has gone on record as endorsing frequent hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough and staying home from school or work if you get sick. It is believed his advice extends to both Democrats and Republicans and is not thought to be a socialist conspiracy directed at Democrats alone in attempt to eliminate prospective Republican voters. One hopes the president will be as forceful tonight calling the to date wayward Democratic troops to “pull the trigger” on health care reform as he has been warning us to take basic precautions in preventing “swine flu.”

So while the drug companies scramble to produce flu vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staffers go on every cable news show warning that this thing could be “really big” in a very bad way and the likely most affected groups are calling for government intervention in the care of their health, at least as it pertains to H1N1, some things never change. The most effective measures that can be used to combat this disease appear to be simple, cost effective and readily available. Though there will be truckloads of vaccine produced and distributed as well there should be, it appears the really big winners will be the producers of Kleenex, bleach, rubbing alcohol and soap.

The appropriate and frequent use of these flu retardant household cleansing agents should give us all a fighting chance to avoid the worst of the worst. So in an effort at all too infrequent bipartisanship can we agree to wash our hands, cover our mouths when we sneeze and stay home from school or work when we are sick? This is government health care advice that we should be able to agree on, coming from even a Democratic president.

John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesdays. E-mail him at john.kliebenstein@brownwood