According to the Center for Disease Control's FluView, 41 states have widespread influenza activity and the proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) is above the epidemic threshold. While the 6 o'clock news may be wrong to hype this as a pandemic, it is serious. So, what can you do? No, this isn't a discussion about the merits of vaccination - I'm not your doctor or your mother so I'm not chiming in on that topic. But, as a member of the population at large I do have some advice: Stay Home When You're Sick!
It sounds so simple, but apparently it's not. Over the past few weeks I've been bombarded with questions about 'flu etiquette' and stories about the rude sick people who have been spreading their germs in pubic places. So here's the answer and it's really simple - put on your 'good citizen hat' and think about how many people you're exposing to your illness by going to public places, then decide to stay at home. That's it - it's not rocket science. It's third grade common sense. It isn't new advice, either. Check out this poster from the 1918 influenza epidemic (from the State Library of NC):
Most companies discourage employees coming to work while sick and yet there are always those people who think they have to drag themselves in coughing and sneezing . . . and for what? To show how dedicated you are? Because you blew all your sick time on 'mental health days'? You don't want to use your paid time off for sick days when you could save it for vacation? Or, you really think the company will fail if you're out for a few days? None of these reasons is valid for the H1N1 virus, so please do us (and yourself) a favor and stay away. And bosses - don't just say you want employees to miss work if they're sick, and then use some passive aggressive tactics to show your displeasure when they return. Plan ahead because it's inevitable that your company will be affected by this before the season is over and if you think your employees will take advantage, then consider hiring less devious people.
On a less rant-y note - I've had lots of questions about handshakes during flu season. Is it okay to have a No Handshake Policy? Yes, that's a great way to avoid germs and in fact is becoming quite the norm. Yesterday someone even asked what I thought about replacing the handshake with a fist bump . . . personally, I think the fist bump is about as adult as the pinky handshake or high five. So why not just omit the handshake and leave it at that.
If you want more details about H1N1, visit the CDC website (where you'll notice they recommend coughing and sneezing into a tissue and not your sleeve which is what one of our local news stations recommends - Yuck!). Stay well!