Letter: We have become too complacent when it comes to diseases

The politeness gene fails us by not wanting to give offence when faced with sneezing and coughing

To the Expositor:

The Assiginack Family Health Team added a splash of colour to their wardrobes this week, wearing diaphanous yellow gowns and matching disposable face masks. Dr. Bedard took the initiative as a preventive precautionary action. His view was that we should all take the spread of infectious diseases more seriously. We are not prepared to face another major epidemic. Other health clinics in Ontario are taking similar precautions.

The ethical discussions whether to quarantine all travellers coming from China to Canada has caused great debate in this country. The US has declared a public health emergency as of Friday, January 31. Canada is prepared to screen and isolate all potential health risk individuals with a 14-day quarantine procedure. However, a new and disturbing case in London, Ontario of the coronaviris has caused concern because this individual was in hospital a few days previous and released with no symptoms.

It used to be all school children were lined up in the auditorium once a year and given vaccines for such infectious diseases as measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, smallpox and polio, which in preceding generations caused death or disfigurement. I remember the stern faces of the nursing staff who administered the management of treatment. Tears or hysterics were not allowed. The long sharp point of the needle had to be suffered in silence. As a consequence of years of vaccination procedures through out the province, the eradication of these diseases caused a decline in vigilance. We have enjoyed the freedom from worry for a long time.

Many of us have endured the constant sneezing and coughing of infected individuals who come to public meetings or gatherings when they should stay at home. I believe it to be a dangerous practice of the hosting organizations not to address this as a public health risk. They should consider the greater good of others. The vulnerable, the elderly and the very young who are more susceptible to infection and go home sick themselves. The ‘politeness gene’ fails us by not wanting to give offence. There is nothing impolite in asking an individual who is quite obviously ill to act in a responsible manner and get well at home.

Sometimes the body will act up without our permission. If it becomes necessary to expunge bodily fluids in public, please cover your nose and mouth completely by using whatever may be conveniently at hand—a shirt, sweater, towel or napkin—then sneeze. Internally. No harm done. You’re already infected. 

The second worst possible thing to do is to sneeze into the elbow. This action only gives a jet propulsion shove of the pathogens into the air and ensures that everyone will be breathing it in within  minutes. And  the worst possible thing, ever, is to open your mouth and let everything drip and drool over everyone within spitting distance of  the expulsion. I have seen this happen time and again.

We can all act safely and responsibly within reason by caring for each other and becoming more aware.

Lee Weimer