My MIL brought pizza tonight and David went to bed right on time, so here I am blogging (instead of doing my exercises), and it's not even midnight!
I wanted to give a description of a "public health scare" that we've been dealing with over here...not the Zika virus, though!
I went back to read my blog posts about the last time Swine Flu (H1N1) was here in Russia. I had a pretty light-hearted attitude at that time, as you can read here. Of course, that wasn't due to not taking the flu seriously as much as feeling skeptical towards the media and the way that people act sometimes when they don't even have all the information.
However, that was before I had a husband (who gets the flu sometimes), elderly in-laws, a preschool-aged child, and another one on the way. We do a lot of quarantining.
In mid-January, I begged Andrei to take David to church with him, as it was difficult for me to be alone with him (particularly in the evening) while suffering from morning sickness. However, Andrei said it would be better for David to stay at home too as there was "currently a flu epidemic." I will admit that these words didn't really click with me, as it seems there is always "something going around."
Then shortly after, Andrei's mother came down the flu right after visiting us. And a friend texted me about the epidemic, and another friend posted a photo on Instagram wearing a sanitary mask, and then Andrei called at the very moment I was reading the news. We had discovered right around the same time that not only the flu, but the Swine Flu was back in Russia. Though I didn't see many news headlines, St. Petersburg was indeed mentioned as having recorded several deaths already.
Why we took precautions
How do contagious illnesses wreak havoc? Well, they are spread from person to person. Normally I tend to just assume I Won't Get It. But this time, when I stopped to think about how many others just one sick person could infect, a quarantine was starting to make a lot of sense.
I definitely prefer to be given a choice as to whether or not I'm near someone contagious. It's frustrating when someone shows up to a gathering with a case of the sniffles, without asking others if they mind. One family member then brings it home to everyone else. It's common courtesy to be more careful, but I didn't always think about it that way. There are definitely times when we feel we need to be tough and go to work anyway.
Meanwhile, I actually never get the flu! BUT I know it is much more uncomfortable than just a stuffy nose (which isn't fun either), and I know it can keep people laid up for days. Definitely wouldn't wish it on anyone!
What the media said
With all the rumors floating around, it was hard to get reliable information. There were flu deaths reported, but were there more than during a regular flu season? One source clarified that those who died all had underlying conditions. Some said that children and elderly and the pregnant were at risk, while others said that the strain was "attacking" perfectly healthy young adults! In any case, I didn't want us to get it.
I had all these prenatal visits and tests to do, but didn't want to set foot in a public place like that with germs running rampant.
Judging by the numbers of people reported to be hospitalized (and the shortage of hospital beds for people with other sicknesses), a quarantine seemed to be necessary if the epidemic was ever going to be brought under control. School closings were announced and parents were allowed to stay home with kids under 7. That's what I read, anyway. But then I heard that preschools were "closed" officially, but really still open. People were continuing to ride public transportation, but wore masks thinking it gave them protection. Parents took kids to the movie theater and waterpark during the extended school "holiday." Sounds like a pretty effective quarantine, right?
The weird part was that it seemed there weren't many people outside. Or was it just my imagination? I wondered what would keep people inside instead of going out in the fresh air to get away from germs! The weather was dreary, but Russians are usually pretty good about getting kids outside. Supposedly schools were closed....were all the kids at home?
Lack of updates
Though I wasn't quite sure where to look for information, the news sites I checked said that the number of flu-stricken patients was still rising. However, people seemed to have grown tired of the quarantine. I saw kids outside again with their school backpacks, and the preschool playground was populated once more. This didn't make sense to me, as it didn't seem the danger was past. Of course after staying at home for a week or two and not getting sick, you feel that it "worked." But timing is important, too! Does it make sense to call off a quarantine as an epidemic is nearing its peak? Only in Russia! (you can argue from the economic side if you want; I'm just speaking as a mother)
News stories were confusing again as they reported that either schoolchildren were all recovered, or were just starting to get sick, or something equally contradictory.
And, again...how do the numbers compare to a regular flu season? Statistically it's considered an epidemic, but what are the actual implications of that?
It's been announced that the peak of the epidemic has come and gone and that numbers are decreasing now. I went to the doctor today and they thought I was silly for having avoided medical facilities. Meanwhile, my MIL is better and no one else in our family got sick.