We’ll show some discretion by not identifying the candidate by name or party, but one of those we interviewed as part of the Trib’s public service of publishing Q&As with Republican and Democratic primary election candidates this spring declined to shake hands with us Thursday. Reason: Nothing to do with politics. The candidate had “the bug.” That bit of consideration earned the candidate some points from us right off — no questions asked.
Such thoughtful gestures could make a big difference this time of year. The Walgreens Flu Index for last week showed not only Texas topping the list of states where flu plagues residents but the Waco area (including nearby Temple and Bryan) ranking third worst in flu activity. Only Tyler and the booming Texas border region of McAllen and Harlingen exceed Central Texas for suffering from the flu. Local health experts reported 1,541 cases of flu and flu-like illness just before Christmas. There’s been a slight decline since then.
Worse, the flu vaccines for this year are drawing criticism for limited effectiveness. Some scientists say it’s always a guessing game anyway. In developing vaccines months or even years out, medical researchers often have to guess what particular strains will prevail at the height of flu season. Sometimes they figure right, other times they’re wide of the mark. Even so, most physicians strongly recommend vaccinations. Better to be safe than sorry.
Yet in any civilized society, each of us assumes a daily burden in battling spread of the crud. This goes beyond what medicine can do. If you’re the boss at work, strongly discouraging an ailing employee from showing up and suffering through his or her shift is the wise course. Pressing an employee to stay home not only improves his or her chance of recovering faster but further protects co-workers who have one less chance of catching the flu from someone contaminating the workplace.
Granted, some employees choose to be martyrs, working in spite of the flu. Not only do they make co-workers less safe (and many of them will not appreciate such workplace martyrdom if they do catch the bug), the ailing employee’s production and quality of work are also likely to suffer. Good sense is in order: If an employee suddenly begins to feel feverish, achy and exhausted, home rest is the proper prescription. Medical reports indicate you can be contagious between a day before symptoms manifest to five to seven days afterward.
Plenty of other worthy precautions are advisable, including washing your hands often, keeping them away from your face and seeing a health-care provider if symptoms persist. Obviously, nursing-home residents, small children and individuals suffering from chronic maladies — everyone from HIV sufferers to cancer patients — are at risk. And then there’s the example the political candidate demonstrated in visiting us for a Trib editorial board meeting Thursday. Upon hearing the explanation for not shaking hands with us, we suspect the honorable office-seeker subsequently guessed why the board conducted the interview from the far end of an unusually long table.