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Sick? You should stay at home

The Felt Lab, a community-based technology hub located in the Quarry building at 140 King St. in St. Jacobs, will host a series of collaborative art workshops through the spring and summer run by Isabella Stefanescu of the Inter Arts Matrix.

Ever gone to work sneezing and wheezing? You’re obviously not doing yourself any favours. Nor are you doing any for everybody else at the office, as you’re quite likely to spread the cold or flu bug.

Prompting the sickies to stay at home is the impetus of the Ontario Medical Association’s “Snot’s Not Hot” campaign, launched this month in response to warnings influenza cases are on the rise this season.

At the Woolwich Community Health Centre, director of clinical services Jan Inguanez encourages residents to get the influenza vaccine, noting that during the flu season patients are not the only ones worrying about illness. Medical practitioners and staff in general have to take extra care not to get sick in their own workplace.

Nurse Joanne Pfaffinger holds up a thermometer that gets plenty of use at the Woolwich Community Health Centre in St. Jacobs during cold and flu season. [elena maystruk / the observer]
“Certainly health care providers are always dealing with unwell people, so spreading disease is always a primary concern. Probably the biggest thing is hand washing. Most healthcare providers in the winter, their hands are almost raw from washing their hands before and after they see a patient,” she said.

Worries about spreading the flu are just as relevant in other workplaces, as well. A Queen’s University study released last year shows the effects the flu season can have on the adult workforce, with significant emphasis placed on the time and money spent on visits to the doctor and medications, as well as the overall loss of productivity.

Working with data from 80 published clinical trials, studies and research projects representing the work of more than 300 researchers from some 100 universities and institutions, the Queen’s researchers found significant costs associated with cold and flu illnesses. In the U.S., the cost of sick workers was pegged at $25 billion, for instance.

In Canada, we spend $300 million a year on over-the-counter cold and flu treatments and prescription antibiotics which, for the most part, neither “… ameliorate symptoms nor change the course of the illnesses.”

Clearly an ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure.

The study highlights the great importance of preventative methods and the toll sickness can take on industries should workers continue to get out of bed when they get seriously ill.

The study finds that a third of Canadians has a sore throat, flu or cold at any given time during the year and one fifth of Canadians ignore symptoms entirely, with illnesses being more common in women than men. Also, two-thirds of Canadian adults experiencing early signs of a cold or flu are likely to engage in some form of self-treatment.

On the local front medical practitioners are urging residents to treat themselves with care as Waterloo Region had an early start on flu season starting this October when the first two cases of illness were confirmed. This seems to be consistent with provincial records with a total of seven cases confirmed in Ontario as early as September 15.

“If we have patients coming in that potentially have symptoms that are influenza-like they’re required to wear a mask,” Inguanez said, adding that medical offices are often “hyper-diligent” about the prevention of the spread because of the environment they work in.

“Certainly this time of year we know it’s a concern. I know that our illness rates have actually been a little bit higher in the past couple of weeks, mimicking the region’s influenza stats. Hopefully the combination of having the flu vaccine, having good hand hygiene and methods of trying to avoid contamination our staff can hopefully stay well.”

Doctors in Ontario are renewing their call for all residents to take care during what may become a robust flu season using the OMA’s “Snot’s Not Hot” campaign as one outlet used to educate and bring the issue and encourage the province’s workers to stay home when they are contagious and feeling sick.

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