Put a Mask On
We've all heard about how widespread the flu is this season. Southeast Wisconsin seems to be hit fairly hard as well. I've had several patients cancel their appointments due to illness and have seen four of my coworkers leave work due to the flu. I'm relatively attentive to the cleanliness of our clinic. I disinfect equipment probably more often than necessary throughout the year.
Since December, I started keeping a pile of respiratory masks at my desk and strongly recommending that my patients with the sniffles wear it during their session. As the flu continues to spread, I've made my strong recommendation less of an option and more of an expectation. Last week, one patient came into the clinic and said, "I have the flu," in a very non-urgent, matter-of-fact tone. Her clinician politely asked her to leave. While I understand the patients' need for their physical therapy appointments, I think it's more important at this time to limit any flu activity in public places.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the flu vaccine this year is estimated at 62 percent effective in preventing the flu. This means that even individuals who chose to receive the vaccination are still at risk to not only contract influenza but also to spread it to their patients, family, friends and coworkers.
I think the latest map of the influenza spread tells a good story about how powerfully it has impacted the nation. While Wisconsin is not quite at the "high" activity level, we're surrounded by "high" states and the CDC has not yet confirmed that the season is at its peak.
The message of my blog this week is this -- please don't be a martyr if you have the flu. Stay home and don't risk infecting hundreds of other people with your illness. You won't receive a gold star for accomplishing all your errands while you're sick. Your physical therapist will not congratulate you for bringing your symptoms into the community. If you see your primary physician, ask for a mask and disinfectant upon entering the building -- those around you will thank you!
* Map referenced from PBS.
* Statistics from The Wall Street Journal.