Three Selfish Reasons why City Living and Infection Spread Go Hand in Hand

The view from my Convalescent Beanbag

The view from my Convalescent Beanbag…Light at the end of the Tunnel of Illness

I’m writing this from the Convalescent Crescent I’ve carved into my beanbag in the living room. For the first the time (at least as far as I can ever recall) I’ve had full blown Influenza. Whoever knew the iPhone could feel as heavy as a ton of bricks? Acting Nurse to a 2 year old with a 40 degree fever is hard when your own fever matches and your preferred means of mobilisation is crawling across the living room floor…

So it’s now winter here in Australia and we are now full swing into Cold, Flu and Gastro season. It is a time to consider Infection Spread thoughtfully and carefully with the wellbeing of others in mind…One would think. But it comes as no surprise of course, that the sneaky true colours of our attitudes to sickness, health and germ spread here in the City are as varied as the myriad of  bright decaying leaves lining the post-autumnal streets outside.

Illnesses are sweeping through workplaces, schools and daycares in the winterly way they do, prompting the yearly, winterly question I like to ask: Why, when we are sick…don’t we stay at home?

Staying home when sick…who really does that?

In theory, staying at home when sick sounds great, so long as everyone else but me does it.

I’m far too busy and important to stay at home when I’m sick. How can the wheels of society possibly turn without my crucial contribution for a few days?

Me Me ME

I feel that part of the problem with Infection Spread in busy cities, is the lack of importance one imparts to other members of society and of the community around us. We posit ourselves at the very pinnacle of our separate, cocooned microcosms that revolve around “ME MYSELF and I” and do not consider nor sympathise with people co-existing around us. Whether or not we make ‘that meeting’ is more important than whether we make ‘that meeting’ and deliver the Influenza or Gastro virus to 50% of those in the meeting room (not to mention the others in the train, the lift and bathroom).

Germs Are Faceless

Another factor that I feel contributes to Infection Spread in large towns and cities is the anonymity behind the germ spread where large numbers of people are concerned. Offices, daycares, classrooms are full of tens upon tens of people, it’s very difficult to track the progression and epidemiology of an illness. Finding the origin of the spread – the Index case – is very unlikely (and who can be bothered to investigate it?). The happy-germ spreaders amongst us will take refuge in that… (puts on evil voice)

“No one will know that it’s me that brought Gastro into the workplace…it could have been anyone Wohahahaaaa!”

In addition to germs being faceless is the fact that the faces we see everyday, on the street, on the train and so on are just faces, not ‘persons’. Everyday city dwellers see hundreds of faces belonging to strangers. These unknown individuals do not immediately stimulate any sympathy or empathy towards/with them, they are just people we sit next to on the train or simply get in our way as we try to get off the bus. Any guilt we may experience about the possibility of making them sick is fleeting and is even less poignant due to the fact we will never see or hear of the consequences and ramifications  that ensuing sickness may have on that person’s life.


(Puts on whiney voice) “No one else tries to minimize Infection Spread, so why should I?”

And don’t forget the smug certainty that; ‘If I don’t bring this Flu into work/let my kid bring it into school, someone else will.’

Frequently, topical discussions of a cold or tummy bug is brushed aside in conversations by ‘yeah, it’s going around’ almost as if  that conclusion is a solution! But why is it going around? The only reason why something ‘is going around’ is because individuals are not acting socially and morally responsible when they are sick, so what we should be discussing is how we can proactively  stop it from going around.

The answer is, of course, to stay at home but to do that we need to start caring about the community around us. To start caring about the community to around us we need to start seeing them as ‘persons’ not just faces. We also need to re-evaluate our positions in our own cushioned ‘microcosms’. If we choose to live in a busy city we need to accept that with this choice a  moral and social responsibility follows; and that is to accept that although we may often feel like an island  tossed in a sea of anonymity, we are not and we must stop behaving like one.

I would love to know how members of smaller communities feel about ‘spreading germs’. Does knowing other members of a close knit community create a stronger desire to prevent infection spread? Any thoughts? Be glad to hear them…

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