Every winter I am afraid of hearing about people going to school and the flu and spreading it to unsuspecting friends and colleagues who need it, and can keep it up.
This year is the flu season, and horrific cases, including other healthy children, have died. Perhaps this will be the year when the sick will stay at home until they are not infectious. Perhaps this year we will realize that the culture we work at all costs is not only harmful to us, but also puts others at risk.
Our thirteen-year-old daughter Julia is one of those who are in danger. I can’t even pronounce Julia when she was diagnosed with autoimmune disease a decade ago. Shortened versions are APS 1 or APECED. The disease is a cruel and complex combination of autoimmune attacks on various organs. It makes the patient susceptible to lung and yeast infections, as well as parathyroid and adrenal failure.
At SickKids hospital in Toronto and the national institutes of health in Bethesda, Maryland, a very good team spent several years working on how to manage Julia’s symptoms. Now, she’s doing fine. But whenever we see people making sick parades to work, we get frustrated every winter.
You know who you are. You woke up feeling terrible. You are wet, sore throat and a terrible cough. You take two tylenol, have a cup of tea, go to work. You don’t like other options. You’ll miss something that looks important at the time, or you might disappoint your boss or your colleagues.
Even if you stop to think about it, you will admit that you should go home and sleep. You might even have the flu. I know what you look like. I’m yours. I am committed to work, my employer, my colleagues and my clients for my own health. I’m sure I’ll be fine.
This year’s flu season is earlier than usual, which is bad news for our health care system, but especially bad news for people with compromised immune systems. These are people who are born with immune deficiency, because of older people such as chemotherapy and those who are less immune from the precious people who were born yesterday.
The immune deficiency is not obvious. They are mostly invisible conditions. But they don’t just affect individuals. They affect the family. If I catch a cold, I can’t take care of my daughter – not only because I’m sick, but because my presence at home puts her at risk.
When Julia was diagnosed with the APS 1, my life changed. Infection is a part of her life and makes them weak. For several years, she had been in hospital more than she had been outside. Her doctor warned us about the special risks of chicken pox and flu.
In fact, Julia was in the hospital a week before her eighth birthday. We had a high fever and a bad cough, and within twelve hours we were in the emergency room. She became very weak and she had been beating the other day. Nurses and doctors suspected the flu – mainly because of how quickly the disease affected her. She needed oxygen, intravenous fluids, and was isolated in a special room. No other visitors are allowed except their parents. We are told that there are not many medical options available to help fight the flu. Thankfully, she recovered.
Every autumn now, we will give the daughter of the school to send a letter to tell his family about Julia’s condition, and required them to influenza vaccination and varicella vaccine, don’t let their children go to school. We tell our friends and cancel plans when it is possible to catch the flu. Of course, we got our flu shot.
Despite our efforts to open the door to the risk of the disease, people in our community can’t stay home when they’re sick. They admit it to us in a quiet way that they might have, or we hear it from someone else. Sometimes people are very supportive and sympathetic. Sometimes people seem to get frustrated because we’ve brought them inconveniences.
People need to re-examine their impulses to infectious diseases at work or at school. Employers should re-evaluate their policies and set an example for their employees. This will save them money. According to the centers for disease control and prevention, the U.S. economy is losing $16.3 billion a year due to the flu. Employees and students should know that self-care will be respected.
According to the CDC, nearly 6,500 people have been hospitalized this year alone, many of them in their 50s and under four. The agency says 20 children died during the current flu season.
I’ve heard some people worry about the abuse of sick leave, but I’ve seen more people go to work or go to school because of illness. We can work hard at the same time, take care of our neighbors, and we need to recognize that the way we act affects the health of others.
It’s not easy to know if you’re “sick enough” to stay at home, but a sudden sore throat, fever, cough and fatigue are symptoms of the flu and the common cold. If you have a fever, do not go to work or school. Fever is an obvious sign of infection and infection. The centers for disease control and prevention recommends staying at home 24 hours after a fever has disappeared without the help of a fever medication.