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Germ warfare

In a meeting last week, I wanted to be anywhere but sitting there. It wasn't the topic of the meeting that turned me off. It was the person sitting across from me.

As soon as she walked in, it was obvious she was sick. My heart sank when she sat across the table from me. As soon as she sat down, she searched her purse for tissues, then cough drops, more tissues, then medicine and more tissues. She took her glasses off to rub her eyes and wipe sweat from her brow. Obviously she was miserable. When a coworker suggested she go home, her "Super-Employee" mentality kicked in and she said she'd be fine.

But it wasn't a cape and tights she was wearing, it was her coat wrapped like a blanket. She shivered so much, I imagined germs shaking off and hopping across the table.

But I'm overreacting.

I'm sure that didn't happen until she coughed ... and coughed ... and coughed. Surely she had an important job to keep her at the meeting, like being one of the featured speakers. But she wasn't. In fact, she didn't even pay attention to them as she played with her cell phone. The clincher came when she crossed the room behind the speaker to turn up the thermostat. When the room turned into a sauna, others shifted uncomfortably and shed sweaters. After a few more minutes, the person in charge of the meeting turned the thermostat back down. Super-Employee sniffed and snuggled back under her coat-blanket.

I appreciate people being dedicated to their job, and realize there's not always enough help to do all the work. But please, the rest of us would rather do a little extra work and stay well, than share the load along with the virus.

Since we are in the middle of flu season, I looked up facts about contagious illnesses and prevention tips. Okay, honestly I just wanted to know if I also might become sick.

The Centers for Disease Control reports the flu season begins in October and can last until May. The main means of prevention is to wash your hands. No matter what site I visited, the message was always the same - wash your hands. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers also were recommended because they kill germs (not viruses) in seconds and quickly evaporate. Immediately wash after touching shopping cart handles, door knobs, telephones, office equipment, pens and ATMs. Wear a mask in small, crowded places such as waiting rooms and airplanes. If you are sick, avoid spreading illness by covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing and coughing or wear a face mask. If you have a persistent cough or fever, the CDC said stay home.

There's no pocket for tissues in those tights anyway.

Web posted on Thursday, February 9, 2006

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