Swine flu? Yawn. Public-health scares come and go so often, we feel inoculated to media overhype. You know what would actually frighten me? To see a West Nile mosquito riding a killer bee sitting on a SARS-infected bird atop a flu-ridden swine straddling a mad cow.
Swine flu? Yawn.
Public-health scares come and go so often, we feel inoculated to media overhype. You know what would actually frighten me? To see a West Nile mosquito riding a killer bee sitting on a SARS-infected bird atop a flu-ridden swine straddling a mad cow.
So, until I hear that swine flu will endanger our bacon supply, I can't get worked up. Others don't seem too harried, either. That's because we live in America, where - unlike much of the world - we have PPOs and HMOs and HBO and Gatorade and other flu-fighters.
Still, influenza stinks. You wallow in agony for days - in part because of the pain, but also because after a while you can't stand to watch another rerun of "Jake & The Fatman" or any other drek on television.
But health officials say we can avoid an epidemic of swine flu in America, if we take just two key safety measures:
- Wash our hands.
- Don't go to work sick.
In other words, we're screwed.
We might as well consume swine-flu cocktails, swine-flu sandwiches and swine-flu casserole. No way this country can handle the two precautions.
Americans don't wash their hands - at least, not enough of us. Three years ago, the Soap and Detergent Association found that 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women didn't wash up after using public bathrooms. Researchers can't explain the gender gap. Maybe guys find soap to be sissified. Or maybe men are just pigs.
A repeat study the next year delivered worse results: 33 percent of men and 12 percent of women avoided the sink. America is getting ickier.
With that lack of washing, swine flu can spread in a hurry.
Will swine-flu infectees take the advice and stay home from work?
For one, nearly half of private-sector employees have no sick days. None. Nada.
For companies that offer that benefit, the average is 8.1 sick days a year, according to Mercer Human Resources Consulting, which does a lot of workplace surveys. But the average worker takes just 5.2 sick days a year. Out of 12 countries surveyed by Mercer, America ranks second-to last, just ahead of Turkey. Bulgaria tops the list, where the average worker takes 22 sick days a year.
Why do so many Americans go to work sick? According to USA Today, more companies are using attendance in job reviews and offering bonuses for perfect attendance. That means more germs at the workplace.
Plus, not all workers who take sick days are taking care of themselves. Many use the time off to look after ill kids. When those parents get sick, they have to go to work - cough up the joint.
Why not use vacation days to recover? They might not have enough. According to Mercer, Finland leads the world's in total vacation days and public holidays: 44 a year. America averages just 25, which comes in 45th place - ahead of only four other nations.
Mind you, the figures pertain to employees with 10 years with one firm. Newer workers have less vacation, often far less.
Do you have the luxury (ahem) to use vacation days when sick? That's a sad choice. Gee, do I stay home with swine flu, or take the kids to the Wisconsin Dells this summer?
See you at the Tommy Bartlett Water Show, and try not to share my air.
Phil Luciano can be reached at email@example.com or (309) 686-3155.