The flu season is hard upon us -- tragically, in some cases -- and we can stand by for feverish news coverage of the epidemic.
It's important to get a flu shot, the experts say, but why isn't there more mention of the one thing that can stop the spread of flu in its tracks: Staying home?
This is America, of course, and we're all about showing the bosses that we can "suck it up" and work when we're sick; that's how you get ahead in the workplace, the theory goes.
But by doing so, we're infecting everyone else in the office, who will get sick and, maybe, miss work, and make things tougher on managers to get the workload covered.
School children get awards for perfect attendance, but maybe there should be awards for kids whose parents are responsible enough to keep them home when sick.
It's an endless cycle that invariably makes the flu season much worse than it needs to be.
Why do we do it? It's a cultural thing.
On Twitter this morning I raised the issue and found several fascinating perspectives.
But, do people who come to work sick really get ahead? How does it work in your office?
@mylittlebloggie But I've definitely gone to work sick, too. One's easily made to feel guilty for wanting to stay or go home.— Jodi Trotta (@pinswithfury) January 9, 2013
I recommend sneezing in the face of people who would make you feel guilty for staying home when sick.
@mylittlebloggie Exactly. I blame PTO. People go in sick to avoid losing later vacation/sick days.— Jon Tevlin (@Jontevlin) January 9, 2013
PTO is one of the worst concepts ever to hit the American workplace. Under it, you are given additional money in your paycheck each week which you can use later to either (a) cash in to stay home when sick or (b) cash in to take vacation. Feeling a little stuffy today? Why should you spend vacation time? The goal of this policy is clear: To get people to not take sick days.
Get a flu shot, wash your hands regularly, and remind your boss today to change the culture of the American workplace.
And if that doesn't work, use this new Facebook app, and resort to some public shaming.
If you don't have the flu, it'll scan your Facebook timeline to identify the people you know who might give you the flu, most of whom will probably be work colleagues and spouses.
Oh, by the way, this memo came out in my company today:
What should you do if you get sick?
You should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.
My wife and I are the types that keep our kids at home when they are sick and we stay home when we are sick. Though, I know, many parents feel like they have to save their sick days for when their kids are sick.
I am convinced that a general lack of sufficient vacation/sick/PTO days in this country is the cause of a lot more problems than the flu.
We had vacation over Christmas and we were sick almost the entire week. When I returned to work it seemed as though the entire office was sick. Reports of the flu followed by endless coughing were the norm. As a manager I make the people that work for me stay home or leave if they are sick. Unfortunately, the manager of the department next to mine does not share these views and currently I can hear between 2-4 people intermittently coughing.
Yesterday we got a list of ways to avoid the flu from my employer. It included, stay home if you are sick, which of course won't help you avoid the flu, but help keep you from spreading it.
I'm lucky to have sick time on top of my very generous vacation time. I'm also very lucky to be able to work at home if I'm feeling ill, but not so bad that I can't work. I wish more people around here had the option.
But of course, I have to go to the doctor today for an injury, so I'll probably leave the clinic with the flu.
Epidemiology is a fascinating topic to me. Kassie says she will probably get flu at the clinic today.
But she might not. It's been my experience that I catch illness when I don't expect it, and that I go unscathed after I've been places that I figure are germ factories.
We took our toddler daughter to an indoor play place a couple weeks ago, as flu was getting ramped up. I thought for sure, with all the snot-nosed brats running around, that we'd wind up sick. There were kids coughing, sneezing, running noses. Perfect place to pick up a virus.
Yet none of got sick. Then other times we get sick when I least expect it.
The spread of illness is really interesting.
In all fairness I should add that someone within my organization placed a handout about getting sick on everyone's keyboard. There were a lot of pretty graphs and statistics about getting sick. The one lone suggestion for avoidance: Disinfect the workspace daily, especially the keyboard.
Okay, let's stop this myth down that getting the flu shot is 100% guarantee against getting the flu. Flu strains for the flu shot are chosen months before a flu outbreak. Medical professionals can get this prediction process wrong and chose the wrong strain for the current outbreak. Guess what? You are not protected against the flu and now you are sick with the flu.
Basically you can get sick at anytime with or without a flu shot. The question you need to ask yourself is are you taking care of yourself? Are you eating healthy? Are you exercising? Are you getting enough sleep and sunlight? These are all in your control. Sickness occurs when your body is out of balance. Think about how many times during the day you come in contact with germs? Do you get sick every time? No, you get sick when you are out balance.
I am morally and ethically opposed to flu shots and scared to death in that this current fear induced society I am going have my personal freedoms limited. I know of a person who was fired from an administrative job at a Midwestern hospital for refusing a flu shot. This is insane.
So our society is one who can force people to have flu shots, against their will, but gun owners don't need to have any control on a weapon that can kill hundreds in minutes? I must ask as to how many people have died from the flu so far? Don't give me that line of flu epidemic? When did that happen last? It happens to have been right after WWI. Do you think that people were suffering from the effects of war including starvation and malnutrition? Losing loved ones in any circumstance is horrific and unimaginable but to say that getting a flu shot is going to prevent any and all deaths is false and must be addressed.
Disco-- out of curiosity, did you catch yourself washing your hands more often or being careful what you touched at the indoor play place? I notice that in myself-- in a place like a clinic or indoor play place I'm very careful because I'm assuming the germ-spreading opportunities are high.
Not so much at work. LOTS of sick people at work, and I'm not paying as much attention because I'm there every day and it seems normal. In fact, I pay less attention in my new work environment than I did in my old one. My old one was a small office, and when someone got sick you noticed immediately and the sanitizing wipes and hand pumps came out. With more people in the new environment, again, it fades into the background. Or seems like too many people to bother avoiding.
Like Kassie, I work somewhere with great sick and vacation leave policies. We've also got management that officially encourages staying home when sick. What we don't have is a lot of redundancy in functions. I find myself weighing "stay home" with "how urgent is it REALLY that my work get done, and can anyone else do it?" I'm much better about staying home the first day-- almost anything I do can wait a day, or I can send off a couple emails from home-- than subsequent days, for that reason.
I haven't heard any myth that the shot is 100% effective. The dept of health says it's about 60% effective. Diet and exercise will not prevent all illness.
I believe you are referring to the Spanish Flu of 1918. As you may know, we did not have flu shots then.
I frankly don't think our society is doing enough to humiliate and discredit people who harbor conspiracies about vaccinations. We have nearly eradicated diseases like polio and smallpox because of vaccinations. We've gained big time control over mumps, measles, etc. Many of the people who get those diseases have not been vaccinated for various inexcusable reasons.
I firmly believe that hospitals are in the right to require vaccinations of their employees. Patients ought to have a reasonable assurance that they at least will not get sick from the very people providing them care.
I guess you can't even mention vaccinations in passing without bringing out the anti-vaccine folk. Bottom line is that vaccines work and our society is much, much better for them.
Technically, I guess, there's really no such thing as THE flu. It's more "A" flu.
When the vaccines are developed, I believe, it's based on the liklihood of a particular strain, isn't it? And that's when there hasn't yet been a flu breakout.
Most of the time, I believe they get it right. But I've never gotten a flu shot and had someone said "there. Now there's absolutely no way you're going to get the/a flu."
I haven't gotten a flu shot yet, but I admit it has nothing to do with any philosophy. I'm just lazy.
Hey man, lazy is a perfectly valid philosophy.
I didn't get a flu shot...
I've gotten the flu (or something like it) twice in the last 20 years.
I do go to work when I'm feeling stuffy, or my throat is some what sore (so long as I can speak with out it hurting, I go in) I have a difficult time determining what is allergies, and what is a cold... Both hit me the same way.
I think the key to maintaining your health stems not from flu shots, but from a few other things:
1) avoiding stress and other immune system weaker.
2) exposure to germs on a regular basis to maintain a good healthy list of antibodies
We (as Americans and some times just as humans) like stress... It gives us a wonderful round of adrenaline and other chemicals that get is powered up... We take drugs regularly to mess up our bodies (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, etc.) and when we don't have enough stress we generate it for our selves (we all know we can get worked up over nothing pretty easily) This is why we get sick... it's natures way of making us stop running our selves ragged.
All of that being said, I am pro-vaccine. I'd even be pro-mandatory vaccinations... My grandfather died from an illness which no longer exists in the first worlds (and only has rare cases in the 3rd world) and mandatory vaccinations were part of how it was wiped out.
The flu shot isn't as effective now as the vaccines for that illness was then... once it is, I will gladly be vaccinated (and if they can get the a cold vaccine in there too, that'd be great) until that time, the flu shot seems to me to be a stop gap measure. I look forward to a brighter tomorrow thought when the flu has gone the way of small pox, or polio, measles... or any of the other bugs that we don't get (or rarely have out breaks of) in the US...
As far as hopsitals are concerned, mortality from secondary infections is a real issue. Getting a flu shot-- and washing hands, and sterilizing everything every time-- are all things I'm just fine with being mandatory for hospital workers.
Ironically, and back on Bob's original topic about staying home sick, one thing most hospitals really don't do well is provide a workplace culture that encourages staff to call in sick. The opposite, usually. There's a lot of pressure not to use sick days.
I have a questions, if you are infected with the influenza virus, are you contagious before symptoms get to a debilitating stage? Are you still contagious during the worst of the symptoms? When I'm sick, I don't stay home at the first sign of symptoms, i stay home when I'm feeling crappy. Just wondering.
Yeah, according to the CDC you're infectious a day before symptoms appear and for 5-7 days after. In other words, before you know you have it and long after most of us would stay home.
I used to work with Bob Collins at MPR. Sick Leave and Vacation were 2 different things and people actually called in sick. My new company (which shall remain nameless) has PTO and a stingy vacation policy, so people come to work on their deathbed in order to not lose vacation days!
I work in a place where we have PTO and not only is taking time off discouraged, sometimes it's impossible. I've been here for nearly five years and I've never taken a sick day. And it's not because I haven't needed them. I just get sick at the wrong times -- there's a deadline to meet (every single day) or my backup is out or there simply is no backup.
After we had someone in the office with whooping cough this summer, I opted to work from home for a week because I can't trust my coworkers to stay out when they're ill. And I've taken to chastising/shaming those who do come in when they're sick. It's ridiculous to do so when most of the office can and does work from home on a regular basis. This includes the guy who emailed the team last week to tell everyone he was indeed in the office, but had a 101-degree fever, so stay away from him. Yet, he works remotely for weeks at a time when he's well.
THIS MAKES ME SO ANGRY.
My employer keeps telling us to stay home when we are sick, but there are no sick days.
Most empoyees here are hourly, and they just don't get paid if they are sick. They can use the miserly allotment of vacation days, but who wants to call off or shorten their vacation to stay home in bed?
// but who wants to call off or shorten their vacation to stay home in bed?
I understand the thought process. OTOH, there's a 14 year old girl in town who's dead because someone didn't stay home.
As an asthmatic, I am now spending mucho dinero each month to park downtown versus ride the bus with an unknown mix of germs. I figured that one month in the parking ramp is the equivalent of a single trip to the doctor.
I used to hate the fact that I have a laptop. No longer. Since I have the ability to work from home (thank you virtual projects), I voluntarily quarantined myself from the hacking and sneezing that was widespread in the office around the holidays.
I value the ability to work from home on those days when I don't feel I should be exposing the world to my germs.
As for stress, unfortunately there is more of that in the workplace as people worry whether their jobs will be eliminated. Stress leads to anxiety which leads to sleep disorders which leads to poor health, .... It's a vicious cycle.