Welcome to the beginning of flu season

What does flu season [1]In North America; your continent may vary. have to do with the web?

The beginning of flu season coincides with “It’s probably nothing, I’m fine, I’ll just work through it” season in offices all over America. And y’all, we’ve got to knock that shit off.

Let me say this nice and loudly for the people in the back:

Get your flu shot now.

Stay home if you are sick.

When you catch the flu, on average, you will infect four other people. (That ranks it as more contagious than Ebola, but thankfully less contagious than the Measles.)

Influenza is contagious in the air for a distance of roughly six feet according to contagion information by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and may be spread on surfaces as well. In a conference room, one uncovered sneeze is probably exposing half the meeting participants [2]If you can’t sneeze into a tissue, cover your cough or sneeze with the inside of your elbow..

If you work in an open office, you’re twice as likely to spread the flu (or twice as likely to get sick) than if you work in a closed office or at home.

When you catch the flu, you become contagious one day before you show symptoms, and continue to spread the disease for 5-7 days after you show symptoms.

If you work at a medium to large office, and you’re contagious, you are almost certainly going to expose someone who’s at high risk of complications from a case of the flu. Just like you probably can’t spot the 10% of the population who have an invisible disability, you probably can’t spot the people in your office who will be most impacted by the flu. They include people with asthma, lung disease, diabetes, neurological conditions, heart, kidney, or liver problems…. none of which you can see by looking around the office.

Let’s say you spread the flu to someone like me. I have fibromyalgia. I’m not at higher risk of life-threatening complications, but my brain fog will probably be worse and it will take longer for me to recover.

My husband has Cystic Fibrosis. The chances are really good I’ll spread the flu to him. Whereas I’ll just feel like crap, his influenza infection will likely lead to bronchitis or possibly pneumonia, will allow the already-present infections in his lungs to build strength (because his immune system will be busy with the flu) and his lungs will be damaged, potentially permanently.  When my husband had the flu as a child, he permanently lost 10% of his lung function.

People like us are everywhere; we both work full-time in open offices. You don’t want the flu, you don’t want flu complications, and you don’t want to be responsible for other people getting flu complications.

Get your flu shot now.

The best way to protect yourself from getting the flu is to get a flu shot[3]Assuming you are healthy enough to get a flu shot and you’re not allergic to it..

If you can’t get the flu shot, then your best way to protect yourself is wash your hands, stay away from sick people, manage your stress, get healthy exercise and sleep, and tell everyone you know to get their flu shot.

Vaccines work, and herd immunity is real. (This comic by Maki Naro explains everything you need to know about vaccines and how they keep you safe.)

You may be wondering, “but isn’t it a little early? It’s only September.” Well, sure, but you want to get the vaccine before the flu hits your neighborhood, not after. The CDC says:

You should get a flu vaccine before flu viruses begins spreading in your community, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu. Make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins. CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.

If you get the flu shot as early as July, you do risk it “wearing off” by February at the tail end of flu season. However, studies have shown that only a few populations actually benefit from a second shot — and those are generally children under 8 and people who’ve received organ transplants. So you can check with your doctor but that second flu shot probably won’t be of any benefit.

Stay home if you are sick.

If you do come down with the flu — or for that matter, any of the other infections that peak in the winter — please, stay home.

  • This means you.
  • Yes, you.
  • Nobody wants sick people in the office.
    • Not even the ones who are inconvenienced because you’re sick
    • Even if they’re bitching about you being sick
    • Especially not the ones who will get sicker than you got
  • You heal faster when you rest so you’ll hit that deadline you’re worried about faster if you stay home, get well, then go back then if you try to work through it. Brain fog is a real symptom of the flu.
  • It’s your company’s job to have enough staff to take care of things when the flu’s going around, not your responsibility to work because they’re unprepared.
  • You are not lazy, horrible, or a bad person when you stay home to get well.
    • No, seriously, you’re not.
    • The flu also makes mental health conditions like anxiety or depression worse, so if you’re thinking “no really I’m horrible, I should try to work through it” that’s a symptom of the flu. Ignore it.

And yes, I know that despite the fact that we live and work in the 21st century, some employers (especially in the United States) are too stubborn, micro-managing, or stupid to let you work from home. In fact, some have absolutely draconian leave policies, or no sick days at all. These are all reasons to vote and support unions and human-centered economic policies, but that’s another rant for another day and won’t get us through the 2019 flu season unless y’all are much faster at organizing Labor movements than I could possibly be.

So to sum up one more time:

Get your flu shot now.

Stay home if you are sick.

Have a happy and healthy winter season!

Also published on Medium.


1 In North America; your continent may vary.
2 If you can’t sneeze into a tissue, cover your cough or sneeze with the inside of your elbow.
3 Assuming you are healthy enough to get a flu shot and you’re not allergic to it.

Author: Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is Principal UX Designer and general troublemaker for a big/small technical company outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She's an editor and writer at The Interconnected. She is also published at A List Apart and The Pastry Box, and publishes short fiction when she's not persuading the terriers to stop wrecking things.