If you’re like most North Americans, you’re worried about the H1N1 Swine Flu, and trying hard to avoid germs by washing your hands frequently, pushing elevator buttons with your elbow, and flushing toilets with your foot. You might also want to avoid your coworkers. Why? Because a lot of workers – even hospital workers - are coming to work sick, raising everyone’s risk of getting sick this flu season.
Why is this happening? According to ABC News, a lot of companies don’t provide sick days – so when an employee takes a day off, they lose money. Even when they get paid sick leave, a lot of employees are convinced work will grind to a halt if they’re not there. They also believe it’s a show of strength to work while they’re sick. However, Dr. William Schaffner is a specialist in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University. He says, you’re most likely to infect others during the first two days you feel ill. So, it’s essential to stay home then. You’re also contagious the day before you show symptoms, so do yourself – and your coworkers – a favor, and wash your hands frequently during cold and flu seasonm, and use hand sanitizer.
So, what about wearing a surgical mask? Dr. Schaffner says don’t bother. There are no studies that prove heavy-duty surgical masks – called N95 masks – can protect you from flu and cold germs. Your best bet: Keep your distance from sick colleagues. Close personal contact is the main way the flu virus is transmitted. In fact, just talking to a sick person who’s standing within four feet of you is enough to put you at risk. Finally, be careful around your kids. The flu is mainly transmitted from kid to kid, and from kid to parent. Why? Because kids are less concerned about hygiene. They also shed more virus than adults – and for a longer period of time - which means they’re infectious longer. So, make sure your kids wash their hands too – and learn to sneeze into their elbow. That way, they won’t leave cold and flu germs on every surface - and person - they touch.