Sandy Says: Whooping It Up

July 2, 2014
I write a fair amount about contagious diseases and guidelines put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but I never thought I’d be an example of what NOT to do.

I’m a big proponent of the “if you’re sick, stay home and keep your crud to yourself” school of thought. I don’t want to hear you hacking, sniffling or sneezing, especially not near me. Keep your germy hands off the office coffeemaker, my phone, my desk, the door handles to the conference rooms and office doors. Better yet, STAY HOME. I always breathe a sigh of relief when cold and flu season is over.

April and May are very busy months for me, both at work and at home. The May and June issues of the magazine tend to be healthy ones, so there’s a lot of extra hours spent writing and editing and doing production. I’m an avid gardener, and April and May are when all the hard work happens in the flower and vegetable gardens. We attend a couple of trade shows in May and June, so there’s a lot of preparation for those as well as trying to ensure everything back in the office goes smoothly while we’re gone. Finally, I’m on the planning committee of a large benefit that takes place at the end of May/beginning of June each year. 

I literally do not have a free hour to myself in April or May, and I knew that one year it would catch up to me.

This was the year. I started feeling a little sniffley at the beginning of June. But what’s a little summer cold or allergies, right? I hopped right on that plane to attend Safety 2014 in Orlando on June 8 without a second thought.

But it wasn’t a cold. By the time I got home from Orlando, I was miserable. It was whooping cough, which is highly contagious and can be dangerous to babies and young children. Back before my time, they quarantined people with whooping cough. It’s serious stuff.

I received a vaccination as a child, and even had a case of whooping cough as a toddler, but the vaccinations wear off and having it does not inoculate you from future bouts.

So, still in the busiest time of year both personally and professionally, I was diagnosed with a highly contagious illness and told by my doctor – who put on a mask to tell me and gave one to me to wear out of her office – to go home and stay home. 

What’s interesting to me is that by the time I was coughing until I practically fell out of my chair (I’m still in this stage, which can last for weeks) and decided to call my doctor, I probably was at the tail end of being contagious. Whooping cough is highly contagious for a week or so in the early stages, when you have a slight cough and feel like you have a mild cold. Like when I was on a plane packed full of people heading to Orlando.

I always wondered how someone could get on a plane with a highly contagious disease and potentially infect his or her fellow travelers. “How selfish!” I thought. “How insensitive and dangerous!”

Now, I understand. Sometimes you just don’t know that what you’re doing is putting other people in jeopardy. I thought I was getting on a plane with a little cough, maybe related to allergies or a summer cold. Little did I know …

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