Stay at home when the flu comes calling

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Stay at home when the flu comes calling

Three days in to the work week, senior accountant Janet D’Souza knew her flu she wouldn’t go away by self-medicating with aspirin and lozenges.

By Praseeda Nair

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Published: Thu 22 Sep 2011, 11:18 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:56 AM

But with a stack of paperwork and a long list of clients, she had no other option but to go to work, armed with a box of kleenex and a thermos of hot soup.

“Everyone would pop in to ask me how I was and tell me to go home to rest, but I had too much to get through and I knew I’d feel guilty if I went home,” she said. By the end of the work week, the 30-odd office cubicles on Janet’s floor had transformed to makeshift sickbays as her colleagues began ‘dropping like flies’.

“Of course, everyone knows the flu is contagious, but I thought I was very careful. I have a room of my own, and I didn’t really venture out much, but somehow my colleagues caught the bug and the accounting department’s productivity has been very low, ironically,” she said.

According to General Practitioner Dr Seyed Mohammad of Unicare Medical Centre, the flu season is just around the bend, and taking precautionary measures could prevent productivity-retarding effects of the flu. “People are back from vacation from all over the world, and with them, they usually bring all kinds of dormant viruses that can affect those when immune systems are vulnerable. We should be seeing a large number of flu cases by the end of September,” he told Khaleej Times.

What puzzles Dr Mohammad is why those who have been diagnosed with the flu still insist on going to work.

“I guess it’s a kind of obligation,” Janet said. “You feel guilty taking a sick day when there’s so much to be done. It has become a part of our work culture, especially with multi-national companies that have to keep up with different time zones.”

Abu Dhabi based psychiatrist Dr Mehnaz Koory thinks there’s an inherently flawed logic driving ailing employees to their workplace. “Some people, especially those who have been newly promoted, may harbour delusions of grandeur. They assume that the place simply cannot function without their presence, and take on more responsibilities than they can handle. I’m sure the majority of those who work despite being sick do so because they lack job security and feel like they may get fired or in trouble for taking a personal day,” she said.

Dr. Mohammad insists that the flu is avoidable as long as people up their level of hygiene, and follow the healthy trifecta: eat fresh food, exercise and drink lots of water. Dr Mohammad’s concern remains that culturally, the UAE is not epidemic-aware. “If someone wears a mask, people may think it’s a sign that there is something seriously wrong with him.” There needs to be a change in mindset. Asking someone to cover his face when he coughs or sneezes, or to stay at home when he is sick should not be considered rude. “Also, even though not shaking someone’s hand or avoiding kissing when greeting someone when you have the flu may seem improper, it should become a common practice here so that we can prevent the spreading of the virus.”

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