Influenza is a wildfire that is blazing through this state and my office. Many of my coworkers are out sick and at first what I thought was just the standard Influenza might be a few other things. WMU, through the health center and ultimately through the CDC pushed the 2012 Influenza vaccine shot which we later popularly discovered didn’t apparently take into account the strain that is blazing through Michigan and our office. I have talked to a few people who characterized this new flu as “Flu Type A”and I don’t know where they got that moniker from. I also heard that another virus, the Norovirus was blazing across the US, sourced from Sydney Australia. Are these tag-team illnesses or are we mistaking the Norovirus for the Influenza? For me it’s just idle speculation as the practical upshot is, I’m slowly being surrounded by sick people and eventually my resistance will falter, something will happen – either a surface I thoughtlessly touch or some aerosolized agent that I somehow come into contact with.
This has got me thinking about all the popular culture illnesses. Nothing as awe-inspiring as Captain Trips from Stephen King’s stories, but even movies like Hot Zone all lend themselves certain weight to the idea of control, quarantine, and the eventual lapse in vigilance. I haven’t gotten sick (knock on wood) and for that I’m very thankful, but something is knocking on the door and I don’t know if I’m doing enough to protect myself. Much of what I do is probably just a placebo, taking extra doses of Vitamin C, a dose of Vitamin D-3 (which I need anyways, and it probably doesn’t do anything else) drinking lots of hot tea (hot water can’t hurt) and regular drinks at night. Nothing comically appropriate like getting piss drunk every night, but a wee something regularly, wine, liquor, cider, beer. Does it help? It’s not hurting, so why not?
Beyond the things I eat and drink, vigilance visits me in what I do at work and at home. I often times worry that I’m starting to develop a germ-phobia laced with a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder. I know at least somewhat clinically that this activity of washing my hands before I eat (and sometimes afterwards) is only really a mental illness if I am paralyzed because I cannot proceed without cleaning my hands or it somehow impacts my quality of life. There is a small part of me that is concerned that all this handwashing, in hot water, for twenty seconds using rather aggressive soaps is just hastening my seasonal skin issues on my hands. The colder the weather, the drier the climate the more dry and cracked and bloody my hands get. My hands and my legs bear the worst of it, but my legs get a respite as I have them covered up almost all the time, where my hands don’t and pay the price. All this handwashing is just pushing them even harder. At what point will I have that breakpoint of diminishing returns? When will washing my hands mean nothing if I’m bleeding from the cracks from the angry skin on the back of my hands? What to do to cope? I’ve decided that Dove Soap’s line that caters to men, with their moisturizer as part of the soap may be my best effort. I’ve also got a pump bottle of moisturizing sanitizer however as I discovered tonight, sanitizer doesn’t touch Norovirus. Not that I’m really convinced that Norovirus is chewing through the office, but if it isn’t, then it’s on the heels of Influenza Type A.
This very story has played out before. It plays out whenever there are communicable outbreaks and the natural question pops up – at what point does it make more sense to just not go to work and expose yourself? At what point do you stop leaving the house? I laughingly call it the Decameron moment as the people in that book, in order to pass the time recount stories to each other and remain away from the city to avoid the plague. I can’t deny the pleasure of reading the Decameron back when I was in college and if it weren’t for the two other books that I’m currently hip-deep in reading, I would take it right up as it’s applicability in this particular situation is undeniable.
So tomorrow I’m going to have to come up with ways to protect myself at work. Bringing my own soap maybe to start would be okay, paper towels are still the best way to dry my hands as we don’t have any hot-air blowers at work. As for surfaces, it’s going to have to be Lysol and Isopropyl Alcohol as I can’t risk using Clorox on the surfaces at work. I know that Lysol and Alcohol will not likely damage the things at work, but I’m pretty sure that Clorox, even diluted would likely have unintended consequences. I will have to have faith that what I have, plus my nearly OCD handwashing and keeping my distance from people is enough. I have been dallying with the notion of pushing SupportPress down my clients figurative throats and only rendering help over Apple Remote Desktop in order to zero out the touching-of-surfaces vector of possible sickness. I haven’t gotten there yet, but it is something I am considering. I sometimes wonder if anyone has done a pathology survey in regards to electronic forms of communication and that impact on disease spread? What happens if we all switch to video links, phones, and email and shun contact with each other even more than we already have? In a lot of ways, each office could be it’s own Decameron, with people holed up, trying to avoid getting sick and passing the time.
I feel excellent. There is nothing wrong now, but it’s coming. The worst part is not knowing, or rather suspecting that something you can’t see is lying in wait for you and at the very best could make you miserable and at the very worst, kill you outright. Another bit of consideration is what the break-off point is for workplaces all around when a majority of staff is actually sick. At what point is going to work and accomplishing nothing cost more than just staying at home, claiming that you are sick when really, you’re just holed up waiting for the illness to burn past you?