Be a Disease Detective

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Be a disease detective.
Prevent contagious illnesses from spreading through your group with the same type of mitigation strategies used by epidemiologists.

A cashier at a gas station leaves work just a few hours into her shift after complaining about a headache and nausea. Dozens of customers come and go for several hours. Near the end of the shift, the remaining employees notice a faint odor of gas and begin to feel ill themselves. The fire department finds high levels of carbon monoxide in the air. Carbon monoxide is known as the “Invisible Killer” because it is colorless, odorless, and poisonous.

Illness can spread across your group just as quickly and viciously as a noxious gas can fill a room. But just like a carbon monoxide detector can prevent disaster, you can take some steps to prevent an epidemic in your organization.

Look for Illness Trends

Inevitably, at least one member of your ensemble will get a “bug” at some point during the marching season. Epidemiologists work to detect infectious diseases on a global scale and advise people on the best ways to protect themselves. Even if a xylophonist is the closest you have to an epidemiologist on hand, at least one person should be appointed to take note of any illness trends affecting your members.

Look for signs among subgroups that have been in close proximity, such as:

  • Members traveling in the same vehicle.
    Members who are roommates or siblings.
    Members of the same caption or section.

Isolate and Quarantine

If spread of illness appears to be occurring, consider implementing the same mitigation strategies used by experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Isolation and quarantine can protect your marching organization from being overrun by illness. Of course, frequent handwashing and disinfecting of all surfaces are also advisable.

Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. If a member is sick, do not risk exposing other members by allowing the ill around the healthy.

Quarantine separates people who were possibly exposed to a contagious disease. If other members were in close contact with someone who is sick, monitor them closely and avoid close contact with others (healthy or ill).

Take Precautions in Public

Restrooms, gymnasiums, stadiums, and other public facilities may be ridden with germs. Consider these precautions in public spaces:

  • Note maximum capacity of facility and restroom areas.
    Report any missing or depleted items, such as soap or paper towels, to facility management.
    Provide hand sanitizer, wipes, and other cleaning products to your members when soap and water are unavailable.

Some of the best memories in the marching arts are made during the many days and nights spent together. Stay safe and healthy this season!

About the author

Justin Eberly

Justin Eberly is a volunteer firefighter and active emergency medical technician in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. He presents emergency services educational and training programs locally and nationally. Eberly has played trumpet for 15 years, previously performing with Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and Shippensburg (Pennsylvania) University. He also serves as a marching band instructor.

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