I caught a fever and chills last Saturday; sleeping was a chore because I'd feel hot and cold all at the same time. At that time, I thought it was no biggie – it's quite easy to get sick as an enrichment school teacher, with the amount (and I do mean "amount" – it's not exactly countable) of interactions we have on a day-to-day basis with children who bring all sorts of diseases from their regular lives through their own day-to-day interactions.
My fever broke quite soon, and at first I was relieved. And then the mouth and throat ulcers came, making eating or drinking anything difficult. Then, tiny itchy spots appeared on my fingers. And on the soles of my feet. Before I knew it, some had turned into fluid-filled blisters in the course of a few hours. Just as a comparison, my trusty right thumb, an essential digit that I need for doing most of my daily duties, including grading scripts, has 11 of these spots, some of which have combined and two of which are tender to the touch. I feel something underneath them.
What do I have? Hand, foot and mouth disease. It's a virus, which means someone who had it turned up in my enrichment school.
My country has a health advisory – general practitioners have to inform our Ministry of Health if any patient turns up with hfmd. The GP has to ask which educational center the patient (usually a kid) has contact with, and just tell the MoH the name. MoH will then have a record, not for punitive but for tracking purposes, of said school. The school then will inform all the parents of students from the school that there was an outbreak in the school.
So this means that a parent whose kid was from one of these schools which had an outbreak likely knew about it and the potential risk of his/her kid acquiring it and still sent his/her kid to my school anyway. Either that or the kid was already having symptoms or has some remaining scabs and the parents still sent them this way because, I don't know, they found it a waste of fees if they didn't send them in or perhaps they just found it too inconvenient to reschedule their kid's classes.
The disease itself is highly contagious and can cause complications in pregnancies. I'm not pregnant, but there are a bunch of pregnant teachers currently in my school. Incubation is 3-5 days; infectious period: from day 1 of symptoms to about a week, although the virus itself is still in the system long after and can still spread but with a much much lower chance. The fact that adults have a 1-5% chance of getting it, and the fact that I haven't been ill in ages tells me this I caught it not during the downtime but when it's still highly active.
So. Parent feels that it's no big deal and sends kid to school, unknowingly spreading this super infectious disease. Doesn't seem like much? How about this? Parent feels child's education that will be gained in a two-hour class is more important than erring on the side of caution and taking the time to check if their kids have no bumps or ulcers in their mouths and not sending them to school so that they can curb the spread of this disease that could potentially lead to death (small chance, yes, but kids have died from this) and complications in pregnancies.
How's that for perspective?
My students have their GP prelims (JC2) in two weeks' time. The doctor made sure that I am given ten days off. He says I can't go back to school. You see the problem here? (I'm working on a web conference alternative.) And if I had been pregnant? Because some stupid selfish parent decided their kid's two-hour paid tuition is more important? Fuck you.
Now let me tell you what a pita this thing is – I can't walk because my feet are covered in blisters; I can't do much with my hands including washing my hair, bathing, writing, opening anything that requires force like screw tops and cans; I can't eat anything solid. I can't go out because the way I'm walking speaks of vulnerability and also because I really shouldn't spread it. I have elderly parents at home and I'm worried they will get it. I really don't think my 70+ yo parents would relish going through what I'm going through. And their immune system is weaker, so it won't be fun at all. And all this – why? Because a stupid parent thought it was a good idea to bring their kid to school.
I have considered what if it were a teacher who brought it in, and maybe her kid is sick at home with it but she/he is asymptomatic so he/she came in. Well, that teacher is stupid too. Should have checked it first thing.
My point is, we live in a fucking society. That means there are other people. And one of the many obligations we have to our fellow men is to watch what the fuck we are doing.
There is a positive side to this. The only thing that this is is an inconvenience to me. It's not life-threatening and I'm thankful it isn't. I'm actually feeling ok. Just annoyed. But I know I'm indulging in my annoyance. I'll have time to read more – have a bunch of books I need to play catch-up with. I get to try different flavored of vegetable and minestrone soup. I may even add in some chili as a replacement meal! And I'll have more time with my loved ones, so to speak. Each time I do anything, I feel pain. That's good. Reminds me my stuff is still working – my fingers, my feet, screaming to tell me they are still there, and making me wonder each time – what if they're not?
I can't control whether a disease hits me or not, and how badly I will be physically affected by it. So that's beyond me. Not bringing the kid to school is not beyond that parent, even if that is beyond me. And I think that's what I'm driving at here – the cosmopolitan world is one in which each person's action or non-action might affect someone else. I think I expected people to be more cognizant of this. But I really shouldn't be surprised. I only need to look the state of the world right now to see the same thing happening a thousand-fold.