The Consequence of Germs

Earlier this week, one of The Boy’s colleagues was diagnosed with strep throat. And then said colleague came to work the day after and the day after that, contagious throat infection and all. 

And that means my beloved and I will not see each other for the next week while we wait out the incubation period. Because I take a medication for my rheumatoid arthritis that suppresses my immune system. The potential consequences of me getting strep throat are too dire to risk The Boy being in the same room as me.

And I have just about had it with people who insist on inflicting their germs on the rest of the world. Whether it is the current measles outbreak or strep throat, the consequences of sharing those germs can be profound.

You may stand next to someone at the coffee shop who has a new baby. The man in the elevator may be taking care of a frail parent. The woman on the subway may carry it home to her kids, not have childcare for them while they are sick, and might be out of sick days herself )or not get any). Or her children — or the children of your colleagues — may take it to school and infect most of their class. 

Or one of your healthy, able-bodied colleagues may have a partner who has a suppressed immune system.

Your decision to go out in public when you have an infectious illness that has potentially serious consequences has a direct impact on the people around you. You may be perfectly healthy with the kind of immune system that can withstand this kind of illness, but any of the people you are standing or sitting next to may not. Or they may have someone in their life who must not be exposed to this kind of contagion.

Sometimes, the illness that you worked through, just dragging for a few days, can make someone very sick for weeks. On land them in the hospital. Or kill them.

Your decision to be careless has consequences.

In this case, the consequences of The Boy being exposed to strep throat means that I do not get the help I need to buy groceries in -30C weather. It means my mother goes without the nutritious and satisfying dinner that was going to help her build strength after her surgery (because frozen dinners do not build strength). It means I don’t make soup, because my booking with an attendant is not long enough to do so and I rely on my partner to help me make meals that take a long time to cook. It means The Boy and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day together. 

And all of these are mere annoyances compared to the potential life-threatening consequences your decision to go to work might have on someone in the families of the rest of your colleagues. Or the man in the coffee shop, the woman on the subway or any of the multitude of people who you exposed to this illness.

Your decision to be careless with our health has consequences.

I have lost my ability to be polite, so if you cannot handle strong language, avert your eyes, for I am about to tell you how I really feel.


No one admires you for coming to work while sick and contagious. If your employer thought about it, they’d rather have you use two of your sick days than losing 20 work days while it works its way through your colleagues and their families.

Think. Use that large brain that’s a result of millions of years of evolution. Or that God gave you, if that’s how you prefer to look at it. 

Think. Face the fact that sometimes others bear the consequences of your actions.

Think. About someone other than yourself.

Think. Consider that not everyone is as healthy as you are. And if they are, maybe someone in their life is not.

Think. Get vaccinated. Stay home when you’re sick.

Think. Help your community stay healthy and infection-free. 

Think. Reduce the strain on the healthcare system.



Wren said…
A most worthy rant. I'm so sorry this person's mindlessness has caused so many consequences for you, Lene--and I realize you were not referring only to yourself, but all of us, everywhere. I wish people would be more thoughtful. :o\
k said…
Did I tell you about the time a woman I knew worked the cash register at a McDonald's on senior day - with strep throat? I ended up taking a couple days off with it, thank you very much.
I love having to go off on my co-workers every damn fall about that cold you get? could kill me. I also love having people downplay it, or better yet, get offended.
I think I should share this.
knittingyoyo said…
Absolutely great post. I hate to say this, because I do not like to be negative all the time, but people are so self-absorbed that they just really do not care about anybody. I barely saw my grandgirls the whole month of January because they had the flu and then I got a cold, which I think I got it from the guy who was coughing and sneezing up and down the aisle at Wal-Mart. Gross. I was not willing to expose them to being sick again so we visited by text. When I was teaching we had parents sending sick kids all the time to school and you know how the schools love to let you be off and have to hire a sub when you get sick. As person with a compromised immune system it can take me two weeks just to get over a "simple" cold. Think I will link this post to my blog. Great rant.
Leslie said…
I totally relate. I wrote this post for

Got some flack for it, telling me that people need to earn money and if I'm so worried about getting sick that I should be the one to stay home.
Star said…
Sometimes I worry that people think I am being overly cautious or a baby by avoiding sick people.
I spent the entire month of January sick because I was stubborn and it all started because I spent time at a family party where someone was sick.

So sorry you and the Mr. didn't get to have Valentine's Day together. <3
Ann said…
Very good post. I try to avoid crowds and am very careful in public places but, still ended up with the cold from hell. It lasted 3weeks and took two different antibiotics to finally clear up. This one came from some visitors that just had to stop in and see me even if they were sick. I just don't think people get it. One friend would keep her children away when I had a flare or was feeling very off, in case I gave them my RA. Not joking. But, if the children were ill over they came. I have learned to be a bit rude and leave the area ASAP If I notice and signs or symptoms of illness in others.