If You’re Sick, Stay Home


Emotions often trump common sense, which is a major bummer during flu season.

Regardless of whether we’re talking about H1N1 or seasonal flu, sick people often ignore public-health warnings to stay home.

Thanksgiving will be challenging. Who wants to miss a holiday dinner? But if you’re sick, please show some love for the rest of us and confine yourself to your bedroom.

While we’re on the subject, don’t run your germy hands over my Whole Foods Market grocery cart. Not only do I hate overusing antibacterial wipes and gels, but you’re forcing me to consider donning a hazmat suit. And if you have the cojones to cough in my face while I’m waiting to pay, I’m sure the police will regard my actions as self-defense.

Experts agree that asking the public to comply with infection-limiting measures is difficult. University of Michigan researchers conducted focus groups and found that economic concerns and distrust of the government are stopping people from “social distancing”—an important measure when we’re in the middle of a pandemic.


Study participants “also expressed concern about the feasibility of keeping children and teens isolated and the need for spiritual gatherings during a crisis,” says Susan D. Goold, MD, a professor of internal medicine and director of the U-M Bioethics Program.

“Several parents viewed staying home from work to care for children during school or daycare closures as a luxury that not all families could afford,” adds Nancy M. Baum, a doctoral candidate in public health and coauthor of the study, which appeared in this month’s edition of the American Journal of Bioethics.“Others were worried about losing their jobs if they had to stay home because they were sick or their children were home.”

Economic pressures, she notes, can also “lead to unsafe situations like children being left home unattended.”

Participants were skeptical of government interventions and said their elected officials would likely choose political expediency over doing the right thing. Many doubted the accuracy of government-provided information.

“If the public is not engaged, or feels they are not being treated fairly, the less likely they are to comply,” says coauthor Peter D. Jacobson, JD, MPH, a professor of health law and policy.

As a clinical medical editor for more than 20 years, I trust our public-health officials’ ability to provide disease-prevention strategies and vaccine protocols. I’m saddened and frustrated by the anti-science crowd that attacks the legitimacy of everything from global warming to vaccine efficacy.

As someone who embraces an organic lifestyle, where do you stand?

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