Winter brings about more than weather worries. Cold air seems to heat concerns for catching colds and other ailments.

But perhaps it is perception rather than an actual increase in coincidence.

With windows shut and the heater pumping out warm air into closed houses and offices sickness of some kind does seem inevitable. Breathing the same trapped air does increase possibility of transference.

The simple fact that people and their germs are confined indoors in winter increases the likelihood that germs are picked up. That is the only cause, despite reports that appear as though outbreaks have been more common place in recent years.

Looking back on past events, there have been several examples of sensationalism if not panic revolving around health issues.

Though it may now be old national news, last month, mad cow disease made headlines and caused havoc in the meat industry, probably remaining in the minds of consumers still today.

McDonald's stocks dropped by three percent the day after the story of one sick cow broke. Following that, numerous countries banned American beef.

The English beef industry was all but destroyed a few years ago with a similar situation. British farmers in the rural areas of England went bankrupt in record numbers and tourism, an integral industry in England, was even affected.

Cows were slaughtered and their bodies burned as a public relations move to restore customer confidence though few of them were actually infected.

Not simply isolated to time of year, summer weather brings about fears of mosquitos carrying west Nile virus for the past few years. This last summer was ridden with S.A.R.S. fears.

These diseases themselves are serious and public notification is important, but panic spreads far faster than information.

Talk-show driven fears of germs seem to portray the world as dirty and menacing. Cleanliness, as it is shown on commercials, is an illusion.

We exist in a living world where microscopic bugs and bacteria are literally everywhere, including inside our bodies. Most are not harmful and in fact are necessary, if not helpful. Digestion is aided by bacteria.

Antibacterial lotions and hand wash sell steadily despite the fact that there is no real need for such products. Hand washing with soap and water is sufficient to keep most people healthy.

General health, assuming that there is not a pre-existing condition, can be as simple as eating and sleeping well. Isolation and sanitation are not as good as moderation.

Despite pharmaceutical companies' commercials, we do not need medication for every ailment. Exercise and taking care of ourselves is sufficient.

Kate Saunders can be reached at

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