AT RANDOM: Bahum-bug

Tis the season for snivels, sneezing, running noses and hoarse coughing.

Between friends, family and co-workers, you don’t have to look far to see someone straining to defeat the grips of some strain of a seasonal bug.

But is it just me, or does it seem more people than usual are fighting the cold and/or flu, which also appears to be lingering for longer?

Maybe it’s just the cold cloud I’ve been trapped under for the past two months (making me a little more than bahum-buggish), or the fact that I sit in an office infected with more germ-stricken workers than a playground of preschoolers (on top of the fact that I have a preschooler who brings home her own collection of germs).

But I can’t help but believe that we are seeing more sick people because of the economy.

A study from Queens University found 83 per cent of people will go to work when they have symptoms of the cold and flu. Despite the fact that we all know we should stay home when we are sick, many of us can’t afford to (whether it be fear of losing a day’s wage or losing our job or just the pressure to perform). While we have good intentions to get our work done, by coming into work sick we are in effect slowing productivity of the entire operation as we spread our germs and infect others. And while I’m no doctor, I would suggest that by not staying home to rest, we are in effect hindering our own immune system’s ability to fight off the illness – which in turn makes us sick longer.

Therefore with so many working sick out there, the spread of illness is increased, therefore there are more and more people fighting the cold/flu.

In fact, the Public Health Agency of Canada’s weekly flu watch reports that there are more Canadians fighting the flu.

Based on the numbers for Dec. 9 to 15 (week 50) the percentage of positive influenza tests increased from 18.2 per cent in week 49 to 24.2 per cent in week 50.

That could just be an indication that we are becoming more entrenched in the cold/flu season (which runs between October and May).

A deeper look at the report reveals that B.C. actually isn’t doing all that bad, with just 19 reported cases of influenza while Quebec has reported 762. Our province ranks fifth out of 10 (places like Nova Scotia and Manitoba reported three or fewer cases for week 50).

The highest proportion of those contracting the flu are over 65 (39 per cent), followed by the 20-44 year olds (18.6 per cent), those 45-64 made up 15.9 per cent, children under five make up 14 per cent followed by those five to 19 (12.4 per cent).

During week 50 there were 99 lab-confirmed hospitalizations (none from B.C.) and three deaths. In addition, 33 children (16 years and under) were hospitalized due to the flu, (three were from B.C.).

I’m not sure how much stock I put into these numbers as they only reflect the reported illnesses, and in some cases only the lab-confirmed cases.

I would be tempted to more than triple the reported numbers, considering the majority of people will suffer through a flu without ever visiting a doctor.

And those that do make it to the walk-in or manage to get an appointment aren’t generally tested for the flu, they’re simply handed a prescription to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Because whether it’s a cold or flu, there is no magic pill or herb that will cure you (only some that will ease the symptoms). Therefore many doctors will tell you to let the illness run its course.

So if you’re one of the lucky ones who has managed to steer clear of the seasonal bugs, you’re probably already doing everything right – washing your hands, exercising, eating healthy, getting enough rest, washing your hands, not touching your face, getting your flu shot and did I mention washing your hands?

---Jennifer Smith is a reporter for The Morning Star




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