As almost everybody is aware, flu season is upon us and this one looks like it’s going to be bad. Several of the pups have already had the flu. Yours truly had it around Christmas, Ruth Calvo hasn’t had a voice for weeks and I think Rev Bev got hit with it a week or so after I did. The strain that went through my place of work like a wildfire seemed to include a sinusitis component. The guy who does our purchasing had the whole left side of his face swell impressively and I thought my right eye was going to pop out. It was also some really long lasting flu and in some cases, a dangerous flu. My throat remained scratchy and the area behind my eye stayed sore for a couple of weeks after the other symptoms subsided. One of my co-workers just returned to work after spending a few days hospitalized.
Influenza is a family of infectious avian and mammal viruses known as Orthomyxoviridae. It is typically spread via aerosol excretions through sneezing and coughing. It can also be contracted from contaminated surfaces or direct contact with an animal or person infected with the disease. Typical symptoms include but are not limited to coughing, sneezing, aching muscles, inflammation of the mucus membranes, etc. In some cases it can lead to pneumonia and death, especially if left untreated. Treatments range from bed rest to hospitalization, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Over the counter medications can treat symptoms but do nothing to arrest the progress of the virus in the body.
Oseltamivir, aka Tamiflu is an effective treatment if administered early in the infection. It works by preventing the reproduced virus from leaving already infected cells to contaminate others. It’s very expensive though and since it’s most effective when given immediately after the onset of symptoms, it’s impractical for many Americans to rely on as a treatment because not many of us can afford to run to our doctor every time we sneeze. The best treatment then, remains preventative.
Our own flu outbreak at work has been traced to our web designer, (at least she was the first to exhibit symptoms), which is annoying, since she is one of the few who could have telecommuted and stayed the hell home instead of bringing the illness to work to share with the rest of us. The purchasing guy, who had regular contact with her brought it back into the production department, meanwhile the web designer herself helpfully contaminated the ladies room for us.
Here’s the deal: this flu season is bad. It started early and hasn’t yet peaked. There have been deaths, notably concentrated in Texas and Boston but not limited to those areas. I know not everybody has paid sick days and it’s so easy to talk oneself into struggling through the symptoms, just to get that project done, or make that customer happy but you’re not a hero when you work through being ill with a contagious illness. Your production in an even moderate sized company is insignificant compared to the production you can impact by making other people sick. So please, if you think you have the flu, stay home. It’s best for you and it’s best for your co-workers. I know it’s hard to get a short check but it’s better in the long run to take your small losses rather than to risk potentially much bigger ones.
If you’ve been one of the unfortunates who have gotten the flu this year, you have my sympathy. If you get the flu in the future, please stay home from work, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. I pretty much lived on soups for most of a week when I was ill. Don’t take it lightly though and get yourself in to see a doctor if symptoms become bad or don’t start to moderate after a few days, especially if your immune system is already compromised by another condition. I found Sucrets sore throat lozenges to be truly beneficial to me but whatever over the counter medications you prefer and are available can help you live with the symptoms while your body fights off the infection.
If you haven’t gotten the flu yet, the best thing that you can do is frequent washing of hands. I carry some benzethonium chloride wipes in my purse in order to wipe down shopping cart handles and to wipe off my hands after visiting a retail establishment, especially grocery stores and pharmacies. I know it’s not easy to avoid human contact during the flu season but at least keeping your hands clean and keeping potentially contaminated hands away from the nose, mouth, eyes and mucus membranes can go a long way in making sure you stay healthy until this nasty flu season is in the history books.
Photo by C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish, Center of Disease Control