Friday, January 18, 2008

Sanitized For Your Protection

When I was in medical school they taught us that epidemics of infectious diseases were particularly likely to break out in public institutions like schools, colleges, correctional facilities, dormitories and military barracks. When you consider all the infectious illnesses a person could catch in prison---methicillin-resistant staph or drug resistant tuberculosis or hepatitis or HIV---I guess the common cold is pretty benign. Nevertheless, I take precautions to keep from getting sick and to keep it from spreading to others.

This actually isn't as easy as it sounds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are contraband and I have to provide my own kleenexes (Puffs only, thank you, with lotion). There is soap in the bathroom, if you have a key to get into the bathroom. I keep a can of Lysol by my desk. When I see an inmate who has a partcularly nasty cold I run down the hallway spraying doorknobs and swabbing them down with tissues in the hopes that even if I don't prevent the cold completely maybe I can at least minimize the viral load a bit. I make look a bit paranoid doing it, but it seems to work. I can't remember the last time I had a cold (although my pneumonia last January was particularly nasty).

I wish all infectious agents were that easy to control within the institution. Demoralization is the most infectious agent of all, and the toughest to treat once an outbreak starts. I wish Lysol would work for that.