About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Reader: Quitting is matter of life and death; Health Dept. looking for Train #171 riders

Reader has been six years without a cigarette.

Osie Buffkin of Colonial Beach wrote after seeing the story in Sunday’s paper about Harvey Johnson, a longtime smoker. Buffkin said he enjoyed reading about someone who had smoked longer than he did. Here’s what he had to say:

I was born on a tobacco farm in South Carolina in the mid-1940s. My father was heavy smoker, who smoked indoors, so I was subjected to second-hand smoke before I was born. I also was subjected to the tar and things that are in tobacco, because I worked in the tobacco fields from the time I was 6 until I was 23.

I made my first corn cob pipe at age 5, which I used to smoke the tobacco from our barns. For more than 50 years, I smoked between 1 and 4 packs a day.

Six years ago I decided that I had been lucky not to have suffered any ill effects from smoking, and after viewing some pictures of people who had facial bone cancer, I knew it was time to stop.

I have not had a cigarette for almost six years now. In the process, I have not gained any weight, which most people do when they stop smoking. My wife bought me a carton of cigarettes, which I still have here in my desk.

It is my belief that the secret to stopping smoking is pretty simple: First, and most importantly, a person has to truly want to stop. Most of the time people fail because they really didn’t want to stop. Second, a person has to stay positive and use will power. You have to fight the addiction like it’s a matter of life and death.

(Sunday’s story about Johnson can be found here.)

In other news, the Virginia Department of Health is looking for anyone who was aboard Amtrak’s northeast regional Train #171 on Wednesday, August 17. Passengers on that train may have been exposed to a person with measles.

Passengers from Amtrak train wanted.

Train #171 originated in Boston and made stops in Maryland, Washington and Virginia. In Virginia, it stopped in Alexandria, Burke Centre, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville and Lynchburg. Passengers who got off of the train before it arrived in Philadelphia need not be concerned, according to the Health Department.

Measles is a highly contagious illness that is spread through coughing, sneezing and contact with secretions from the nose, mouth and throat of an infected individual. Measles symptoms usually appear in two stages. In the first stage, most people develop a fever of greater than 101 degrees, runny nose, watery red eyes and a cough. The second stage begins around the third to seventh day after exposure when a rash begins to appear on the face and spreads over the body.

Based on the date of this exposure, it is possible that symptoms could develop as late as Sept. 7, according to the Health Department.

(The Health Department’s press release on this incident is here. You can also call a local health department office or the Prince William Health District at 703/792-6345.)