One of the serious epidemiological issues that surfaced during the recent H1N1 panic is how people infected with a variety of communicable illnesses continue to go to work and infect their co-workers. While this may be somewhat understandable among workers without paid sick-leave, it is hardly limited to this group. During the high-point of the H1N1 pandemic, while visiting a variety of clients, I was shocked at how often I found people from receptionists to senior mangers, at work, hacking and coughing, spreading their germs to everyone around them…me included. When I would challenge them about it, they would invariably give some excuse such as, “I’m not THAT sick!”, “No one’s going to do my work for me”, or “I have some urgent tasks to take care of”. And my clients are almost all health-care companies!

But it’s not just their fault. This is part of an insane machismo that pervades society and is driven by advertisers who promote the message: “Don’t let your sickness stop you from living…just take XYZ drug and keep going as usual”. I’m sure you’ve seen the ads…ADVIL is a notorious promoter of this ethic, although they are not alone. Strangely, these ads are almost always targeted to women. I guess they must find that playing to the prevailing Superwoman archetype is more lucrative than to the notorious male “Big Baby” incapacitated by the slightest sneeze. Funny enough, I just saw a similar ad directed to men but this time the guy in the ad is encouraged to take the drug in order to feel better so he can stay in bed and play video games! How sick is that?

And come to think of it, all the people I saw at work despite being sick were women. I guess the ads work….no matter who else gets sick. People really miss the point: The reason you feel like shit when you’re sick is because YOU’RE SICK!!!! You’re not supposed to be swimming, running, kayaking, or attending business meetings. You’re supposed to stay in bed and get well. How well? You’ll know when you don’t feel sick anymore! As a guideline, most colds and flu have about a 5-7 day contagion period during which you can transmit the virus or bacterium.

Weird how all the health-nuts are so into “natural” and the one thing they’re not willing to listen to Nature about is their own health!