Tuesday, September 2, 2014 Elul 7, 5774
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Flu Disruption

Thursday, May 8, 2014
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Dear Miriam,

My extended family has been planning a big anniversary party for my parents for some time. It's coming up this weekend, and I'm hosting at my house. My husband and I, as well as our toddler, have all been hit by a terrible stomach bug. We're debating canceling the party because we don't want to get anyone sick, especially the older guests and the young children. Because of the logistics of people's travel schedules and time off, this isn't something we could easily reschedule. What should we do?

Signed,
Flu Disruption


Dear Flu,

This has been a terrible few months for stomach bugs. I feel like every time I turn around, I hear that someone else is sick. So, seriously, don't breathe on me and don't come near my kids. When it comes to your own family, though, the standards and expectations may be different. When it comes to a big family celebration like you're describing, I think the rules have to be different. Otherwise, families with kids would never be able to visit grandparents or cousins or anyone else because, let's face it, kids are germy. More than once, I've considered the value of bringing back quarantine.

If any of you are still actively having symptoms, you may actually need to cancel. If I thought that was likely, I would come up with a litany of alternative locations and ideas for allowing the rest of your family to get together without you. However, these things don't usually last for more than 24 hours, so I'm going to proceed assuming you'll be symptom-free by the time the guests arrive. You may still be feeling yucky, and you may not want to eat any of the food you've probably already spent hours preparing, but so be it. 

First of all, get everyone on board with serious hand hygiene. Even once you're symptom-free from one of these nasty stomach bugs, according to my medical knowledge acquired from Googling (plus some unfortunate personal anecdotes), you can still be contagious. That means hand washing before you eat, before you touch anyone else's food, after touching anything bathroom-related and pretty much all the time that you have guests in your house. I would also recommend hiring professional house cleaners if possible since both practically and psychologically that may make everyone feel better. 

It's also worth letting your guests know, in a non-threatening way, what you've all been going through. An email could say, "We're looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend to celebrate Mom and Dad's anniversary. We've all been a little under the weather here, and we're excited to get back on our feet for the big party. We've officially become obsessive hand-washers, but if you want to check in about anything specific, let me know."

This way, if someone is immuno-compromised, they'll have a heads-up. Everyone else will likely just want to find out how you're feeling. If it turns out that any of you have a relapse while the guests are there, do your best to make sure no one notices. And if anyone gets sick afterwards, blame it on someone else's kids. Truthfully, though, there are so many germs going around that you can't bear the full responsibility for everyone's health, provided you've done the best you can to keep your own contained.

Be well,
Miriam

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