Epidemiology

(My comment about last post:  You notice I’m pretty cantankerous by now.) 

It’s our first winter in Europe, and of course we expect to catch every bug going around, because we’re not acclimatized. I had to consider this when I noticed that this is the umpteenth Friday my Wildest One missed school because of diverse sicknesses.

Why Friday?  I presume she picks up these bugs at school on Monday and Tuesday, her immune system fights them Wednesday and she drags herself through Thursday, and on Friday she’s on her nose.  I spend the weekend getting her well, and the cycle restarts.

There are two approaches to contagious diseases, like flus, stomach bugs, polio and tuberculosis.

The Quarantine & Hygiene Route – old, traditional and proven

The first one is to be responsible and stay at home, get well, convalesce and then return to school or work only when you are well.

This approach works well in limiting the spread of diseases.  It takes a fairly mature person (or a strict mom) who thinks not only of herself but of the community and other mothers’ children, to implement this.

I sometimes get a fatalistic response from people.  But this method has already seen to the die-back of many contagious diseases.  I have to draw the comparison with Ireland’s response to Hurricane Ophelia.  Three people were killed – all three were out in the weather.  The rest of Ireland was in lockdown in their houses, and all were safe.

The “everybody gets it anyway” approach

If you are going to have that attitude, better go for your vaccines.  People go to work sick as dogs, not wanting to lose days of work.  They spread their sickness all round; they end up missing workdays anyway but costing the employer that not one but all employees lose work days.  Or perhaps it’s a gung-ho, self-centered attitude, “I’ve already got it so I don’t care”; which results in infecting everyone from the young mother to the expectant woman to the elderly person who gets a lot sicker than you.

It is because of that attitude that vaccines became necessary in the first place.  I guess it’s a choice a young person must make:  Am I going to get vaccinated?  Or am I going to act responsibly towards my fellow humans while I’m sick?  Vaccines have risks.  (If you don’t believe me, ask your doctor to read you the insert.)

There are of course symptomless carriers.

If you are one of them, you don’t even realize you’re sick.  But most of the symptomless carriers are symptomless because their immune system is coping easily with the disease.  The amount of virus a symptomless carrier can spread is nowhere near the amount a fully sick person can spread.

It is possible to be around a person with flu or stomach flu and not catch it.

But that depends on how closely and how long you have to work next to them; whether you have to use the same bathroom;  and how your and their hygiene levels are respectively.  But if you share a bus or train compartment with someone who is coughing and sneezing, you’re probably out of luck.  It’s practically impossible not to inhale the sneezy air.  It’s the way the virus spreads.

Bump up your immune system.

It took a bit of searching but we now have our Echinaforce, and I even managed to source elderberry capsules.  Elderberry is antiviral; elder flower is better, but the berry also shares those properties to an extent.  Sage is antiseptic, as are ginger and clove.

Wash your hands.

I taught the kids to wash their hands every time we came home from shopping or any trip to where people are.  And use soap.  Soap is actually antibacterial in that it dissolves bacterial membranes.  That is, ordinary soap.  Antiseptic soap will probably kill a few of the more difficult microorganisms too.

Nevertheless I don’t think there is anything much we can do to prevent this onslaught of sickness, it is simply part of acclimatizing.

So let me get back to looking after my sick Wildest one…

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