Thursday, October 13, 2005

Flu - Avian or not, if it hits you, stay home

Letters Editor
1 Canada Sq
Canary Wharf
E14 5DL


Liam Donaldson is right to advise us to wash our hands to ward off the flu (Government advice to beat bird flu, 13th October) but he has not communicated another, more important piece of advice: "Stay Home with your Flu".

It is vital that people learn not to go out and mix with others if they have any illness that makes them feel weak, hot and cold. This it is the most efficient way of reducing the prevalence of a virus.

The only real argument against "social distancing" (the modern term for isolation, the time-honoured way of responding to epidemics) is that the bosses assume that an ill employee is a malingerer until proven otherwise. This leads to sick employees spreading their viruses on public transport and in the office. Once it has been noted by management that they are really ill, they get sent to spread the virus in doctors waiting rooms as to get their sickness certificates. This is a crazy system, and it has to change immediately. If the current avian flu virus does end up marrying a human influenza virus, and their progeny go pandemic, we will do somewhat better if we are already in the habit of staying home with our influenza symptoms. This is a far reaching and multi-faceted policy change, but one that is based on impeccable medical logic.

Dr Richard Lawson

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