Mike the Mad Biologist

A couple days ago, while waiting for the T, a guy about ten feet away sneezed several times without even attempting to cover his face; he didn’t even make a ‘matador’, bullshit fake effort. Because of the angle of the light and what not, I could easily see the massive spray of mucus flying out of his nose. I mean stuff everywhere. Kinda like this:

swinefluposter
(from here)

Long time readers of this blog will know my battle cry, “WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS!”, but other forms of public hygiene, such as not spraying your snot hither and yon, matter too. In fact, it’s important enough that public health departments worldwide have campaigns to encourage good public hygiene:

sneezy

This is all good, but what should one do if you see someone not following basic hygiene? For the record, I did not say anything to Mr. Mucus. But should I have?

If someone is, well, very stinky, that might be unpleasant, but it doesn’t represent a health hazard (to someone else, anyway). But influenza is a serious virus. And, hell, even if you’re ‘only’ spreading the common cold, why should somebody else get sick because you are too inconsiderate to cover your face when you sneeze?

I haven’t been able to find any guidelines on what is recommended by health departments, so what do you think we should do, if anything?

An aside: Obviously, if you think he is a crazy person with a meat cleaver and looking for an excuse to use said meat cleaver, not getting hacked at is the first order of business.

Another aside: Yes, I realize that by itself, good hygiene won’t stop the spread of influenza, but, even limiting the spread would be a good thing, particularly when we’re racing the clock to get vaccinated.

Comments

  1. #1 Dunc
    August 21, 2009

    I suffer from chronic allergic rhinitis. If I used a fresh tissue every time I sneezed, I’d need to buy them by the container load. And sometimes those sneezing fits hit you completely out of the blue, without even enough warning to cover your face with your hand, never mind get out a tissue. I do my best, but there are practical limits sometimes.

  2. #2 Comrade PhysioProf
    August 21, 2009

    A couple days ago, while waiting for the T, a guy about ten feet away sneezed several times without even attempting to cover his face; he didn’t even make a ‘matador’, bullshit fake effort. Because of the angle of the light and what not, I could easily see the massive spray of mucus flying out of his nose. I mean stuff everywhere.

    I bet the fuckwad was a cockdoucheweaselmonkey Red Sock fan!

    GO YANKS!!!!!111!!!1111!!

  3. #3 really shouldn't use my name for this one
    August 21, 2009

    When it’s a coworker, I go down to Walgreens and buy a few boxes of kleenex and drop a few off at and around the person’s desk, saying I’ve just stocked up and want to share.

    I’ve for the past five or six years also bought and spread around the little bottles of alcohol hand cleaner gel.

    The facilities people where I work more than tolerate the latter — they’re now buying the gallon size for me to refill the little ones.

    The facilities folks, who are smart, said management refused to allow them to put the handcleaning bottles out in the public rooms, saying “people would just take them.” To which I could only reply “and they had a problem with that?”

    In public? I move away at this point. But I’m thinking having a dozen of the little facemasks handy would be a good move. Someone starts projectile sneezing, I’d pull them out, put one on, and offer them to the people nearby. After all, public health means taking care of the people around you.

    Hell, I’m old enough it creeps me out when people spit on the sidewalk. Anyone remember back when _that_ was bad form?

  4. #4 Comrade PhysioProf
    August 21, 2009

    When it’s a coworker, I go down to Walgreens and buy a few boxes of kleenex and drop a few off at and around the person’s desk, saying I’ve just stocked up and want to share.

    I’ve for the past five or six years also bought and spread around the little bottles of alcohol hand cleaner gel.

    I bet your coworkers consider you an annoying officious asshole.

  5. #5 anonymous
    August 21, 2009

    I suffer from chronic allergic rhinitis. If I used a fresh tissue every time I sneezed, I’d need to buy them by the container load.

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=handkerchief

  6. #6 really shouldn't use my name for this one
    August 21, 2009

    > bet

    You’d lose; it’s not even unusual where I work for people to look out for one another. I just focused on the virus thing. Others do other things the same way.

    Slowly, the signs have been going up asking people to wash their hands, cover their sneezes. First they were anonymously being printed from the CDC’s page. Now they’re officially approved. Funny how it can happen

    And the building turned the lukewarm water back on at the handwashing sinks in the bathrooms — they’d turned off the heat a decade ago to save electricity and it’d been cold water for a long while.

    There may indeed be people there — a few upper management officious ones — who thought it was inappropriate for a mere clerical employee to be doing things like providing boxes of tissue and handcleaning gel out of my own pocket, and for the facilities people to support me. But the owners saw it happen and said it was good. Management didn’t stop it.

    The top management in IT was a little disconcerted as well when I learned that all their staff, who have cubicles in a small windowless room, were sick at the same time — these are the people who go around after hours and log in on everyone else’s keyboards when needed — and someone called Facilities and asked, hey, can you take care of these kids? I know they’re not your department, but they’re all sick, and …

    Facilities delivered handcleaning gel and Kleenex later the same day. Just out of the blue.

    Hey, it may just be a left coast thing, I don’t know.

    What do _you_ do when someone’s doing things that spread virus, where you work?

  7. #7 KristinMH
    August 21, 2009

    This time of the year, he probably has ragweed allergies, not swine flu. I know I do. It’s horrible.

  8. #8 spotrick
    August 22, 2009

    Handkerchief is possibly better than nothing, but .. I know a few guys who sometimes pull out a crumpled, yellowish rag from their pocket to wipe their noses, and it makes me want to puke. I use a pocket sized pack of tissues, but if you must carry a handkerchief, at least get a fresh one every day. You wouldn’t wear the same underpants 2 days in a row, would you? (Please god …)

  9. #9 speedwell
    August 22, 2009

    I work in an office building on the same floor as a doctor’s office and a foreign consulate. If I have to use the bathroom on that floor, I don’t touch ANYTHING with my bare hands if I can help it. I take a tissue with me to open the door, use a paper seat cover, flush with a wad of paper, get a paper towel to turn the sink on and off and use the soap dispenser, and get another one to turn the door handle to let me out. It seems excessive, but I didn’t get my usual summer cold, either. Yes, I absolutely do mention to people in the bathroom that they “forgot” to wash their hands. Nobody objects, at least not out loud.

  10. #10 mersh
    August 22, 2009

    Dunc said “And sometimes those sneezing fits hit you completely out of the blue, without even enough warning to cover your face with your hand, never mind get out a tissue. ”

    Get yourself a handkerchief you pathetic douchebag. And if you can’t get your hand in front of your face fast enough wear a fucking facemask. Sorry for the inconvenience but you’re the one with the disease, and the rest of us shouldn’t be punished for it.

  11. #11 Hank Roberts
    August 23, 2009

    Assessing the Efficacy of a One Minute Infection Control Lesson on Middle School Students
    R Green – NASN School Nurse, 2007 – nas.sagepub.com
    … . Sneeze into your arm or elbow if you do not have a tissue.

    C Brown, CNNC Managers, P Numbers – FOCUS, 2009 – photo2video.info ….
    2. Sneeze or cough into your elbow crease.
    This way you haven’t gotten the germs onto your hands. …

    SS Holcomb, MN BC – Nursing, 2007 – nursing2004.com
    … (If a sink or hand sanitizer aren’t readily available, cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper arm instead of your hand, to reduce germ transfer.).

  12. #12 DingoJack
    August 23, 2009

    May I ask a possibly stupid and definitely OT question*?
    Why is it called ‘H1N1′? Is it because it describes the shape of the proteins on the virus’s outer surface, perhaps? – DJ
    ___
    *Why did I ask if I was going to ask, regardless?

  13. #13 Still rather not say in this context
    August 23, 2009

    > I bet your coworkers consider you an annoying
    > officious asshole.

    I’d encourage giving this response more attention, because I think it likely does explain a lot of the reluctance people have to speak up about infection control measures.

    To the poster, while I don’t know, I’d guess you’re probably fairly young, professional, well dressed, and with some status you could lose by letting people tag you with that kind of label for speaking up.

    I’m an old-timer, dressed down, long graying hair, bifocals, smile lines, know most everyone, and am one of several who routinely chat up the new people, making the extra effort to help them fit into a rather huge business — because the first impression lasts.

    So I can afford to take the chance — one that I’m guessing you perhaps can’t take — of later coming around with the spare box of tissues and hand cleaner.

    As I said, I’m purely guessing about you, and figured filling in a bit more about me might give you a better start saying more about why you think “officious asshole” were I think “concerned grandparent” for the same gesture.

    Please do say more. I think you’re probably in the middle of the normal range — and I’m pretty far out at the edge — in what we think and do seeing people sneezing and coughing into shared air.

    Yeah, I do sometimes think the person coughing on his hands and handling the doorknobs and office furnture may be the asshole.

    But then all I can say is, “well, bless his heart” — and try to find some behavior I can reward, or squeeze some out that I can encourage.

    If we do get a pandemic, what will you do?

  14. #14 Matthew
    August 24, 2009

    DingoJack,
    In H1N1 the “H” stand for hemagglutinin and the “N” stands for neuraminidase, molecules found on the outer surfaces of viruses as you said, hemagglutinin binds to the polysaccharides on cell surfaces and helps inject the viral genome into a host cell, while the neuraminidase snips the ends off the polysaccharides to free the virus from the cell surface, the numbers represent different types… I think lol

  15. #15 Mary
    August 24, 2009

    Hey MtMB: I don’t know if you are aware of this, but here’s a little session I thought we be interesting: http://www.keystone.org/H1N1

    These appear to be regional, you don’t have to be a resident of that city to attend.

    I’m going because I want to be sure science is represented. Oh, and for the $50.

  16. #16 Anne
    August 24, 2009

    I wish sick colleagues would JUST STAY HOME and not come to work to infect the rest of us. When these self-important martyrs say, “Oh, sniff, I feel like hell but I had to answer some, snort, emails…” I just want to scream. I sometimes say, “Please take your germs home. I’ll gladly cover X for you but please don’t stay and get us sick.” They might think I’m an asshole, but I really don’t care.

  17. #17 Magpie
    August 24, 2009

    Dingo: to add to Matthew, I has a link for you, sir: http://www.virology.ws/influenza-101/

  18. #18 DuWayne
    August 25, 2009

    You’re a fucking Bostonian and you didn’t say something!??!??

    I’m a meek midwesterner, yet I would have been all over that shit. One of my favorite ways of dealing with assholes who don’t cover it up, is to quite loudly thank them for sharing their germs. I have been known to say things like; “you know, I really can’t afford not to work, so I don’t take time off unless it is forced on me – thank you for fostering an environment that might force that on me. I didn’t need a fucking roof over my head anyways!!!”

    If I am in a less reasonable/polite frame of mind, I am not averse to just being straightforward about it…”Asshole! Cover your damned mouth when you sneeze, I don’t need to take your diseases home to my family!!!”

    Come on Mike, channel your inner asshole! Are you really going to let some midwestern punk (almost Canuckistanian in nature – I apologize when people run into me) beat your Bostonian ass??!?!

  19. #19 Dave X
    August 25, 2009

    What do you think about coughing/sneezing into the crook of your elbow: http://www.coughsafe.com/media.html

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