Bad idea: Petting zoos at the office are the latest perk for stressed-out employees

Get your own fucking pet, and keep it out of the office.

Do any of youse understand how bacteria and viruses move around?

Chris Delaney typically unwinds from his job at Discovery Communications by taking leisurely weekend drives or flipping through stacks of vinyl at used record stores. But on a recent midweek afternoon, the broadcast ingest operator was releasing his stress — right there at work — by stroking a bearded dragon, a household lizard with thankfully inert spikes.

Salmonella factory.

“He’s very mellow,” Delaney said of the coldblooded creature resting on his lap. “Applying a warm hand puts this guy in a good mood.”

At the office animal party for the over-My Little Pony set, the good vibrations were flowing in both directions. How could you tell? Well, Norbert didn’t puff up his body and deploy his defenses, and Delaney didn’t rush to the medic with gouged fingertips. Quite the opposite: After finishing with Norbert, he requested a cuddle with another member of the visiting menagerie from Squeals on Wheels, a traveling petting zoo based in Potomac, Md.

“I think my favorite was the rabbit,” Delaney said after several failed attempts to soothe an African pygmy hedgehog named Tweedledee. (Or was it his brother, Tweedledum? Hard to know, because all hedgehogs act like twitchy acupuncturists.)

At the mention of his name, Rex the Velveteen rabbit attempted an escape, thumping his head against the cover of his wooden bin. Perhaps he needed an animal to hold, too.

In these anxious times, the embattled masses are resorting to all manner of succor. We meditate in the morning and drink a stiff one after work. Yell at traffic on the way to laughter yoga. Binge on Netflix all night and down cup after cup of pour-over coffee the next morning.

And now, with the rise of office animal parties, you can stroke a bunny, cradle a puppy or massage a tortoise’s neck on company time. If your colleagues or clients grow irate over unanswered emails, tell them to submit a complaint to Slinky, the blue-tongued skink.

People say they go to work, even when they shouldn’t

Rae Ellen Bichell of NPR writes that a majority of working adults say they still go to work when they have a cold or the flu. There are some jobs where doing that can have a big effect on health.

sea-sickness1At least half of people who work in very public places, like hospitals and restaurants, report going to work when they have a cold or the flu. Those were among the findings of a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

They are some of the last people you’d want to go to work sick, because they tend to have a lot of contact with people. And that helps spread disease.

“It’s one of the biggest food safety problems that there is, and we’ve known about it forever,” says Kirk Smith, who oversees foodborne outbreak investigations with the Minnesota Department of Health. But he says it’s really hard to get people to stop doing it.

When it comes to food handling, there’s one illness that’s particularly concerning: norovirus. “It is by far the most common cause of foodborne illness,” says Smith. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is responsible for 35 percent of them.

That’s because there are billions of virus particles per gram in stool and vomit. It only takes about 20 of those to get someone sick. And norovirus can hitchhike from surface to surface. It takes a high concentration of bleach to kill it.

“And so it just takes microcontamination of your hands, if you don’t do a perfect job washing, to be able to contaminate food with enough of the virus to infect lots and lots of people,” says Smith.

The same virus has plagued restaurant customers across the country. Last winter, 140 people — including much of the Boston College basketball team — got sick from eating at a Chipotle in Boston where one person had gone to work sick.

“It’s definitely the norm to go into work sick. That’s what I and most of my co-workers usually do,” says Anthony Peeples. He used to work at an Olive Garden restaurant. Now he’s a bartender at a casino in Michigan City, Ind.

The CDC has found that 1 in 5 food service workers has reported working while sick with vomiting and diarrhea.

Sandwich artist says Subway manager made her work while ill

Norovirus is the perfect human pathogen. With its low median infectious dose and stability, norovirus is built to be transferred. Beyond its durability, billions of particles can be shed in every gram of feces and vomit from an infected individual and can be transferred well via fomites, food and water.

Sort of a nightmare for a restaurant if one of their kitchen staff shows up to work ill.

And a worse situation is when a manager says to an ill food handler that she can’t go home until after the lunch rush.images

Which is apparently what happened at a Freeport, Texas Subway. According to Emily Thomas at the Huffington Post, former sandwich artist Elizabeth Taff was eventually fired for wanting to go home because she had vomited.

A Subway worker in Freeport, Texas, claims she was forced to continue working her shift while suffering from a stomach bug, then was fired the same day.

Elizabeth Taff, 24, says she was so sick she could barely stand up straight and vomited several times during her shift on July 11, but her manager refused to let her leave unless she found someone to cover her shift.

“About 40 minutes into my shift I felt nauseous. My mouth started watering, and I knew I was about to vomit. I ran into the restroom and vomited repeatedly,” Taff told The Huffington Post. “I went and let my manager know, [but] she told me to find my own replacement after lunch rush.”

Taff says she then summoned enough strength to get through the lunch rush, hoping to track down another employee to fill in for her. But no one else was available, she said.

She noticed vomit on her work clothes and, rather than take a pay cut for a new work shirt, phoned home for someone to bring her a clean outfit, she said. She also maintains she didn’t leave work for fear of getting fired and losing her paycheck.

Speaking to local news outlet KPRC, Taff expressed concern for the impact her sickness could have had on customers.

“I was touching everybody’s sandwiches,” she said. “I’m like, ‘This ain’t right.’ I had gloves on but that doesn’t matter.”

Ultimately, though, she was fired that day. Subway asserts the decision was due to her “poor performance and insubordination,” reports KPRC.

“I was on my knees [on the grass outside the restaurant], while [the manager] berated me with remarks such as ‘you’re so stupid, if you cant handle working while feeling ill you don’t need to work here, all you had to do was switch shirts and finish your shift,'” Taff told HuffPost. “She told me I was fired since I was unable to talk, due to vomiting all over the place.”

Doctors work while sick: study

People shouldn’t work preparing or serving food when they are sick because they may spread the illness. That’s become a food safety mantra, and yet outbreaks are repeatedly traced back to sick food workers – like the 300 who got sick with norovirus at the Haaaaarvard faculty club earlier this year after 14 food service employees were discovered to be working while sick. Or the 529 who got sick with norovirus at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant last year, where again, the presence of sick food workers was cited as a contributing factor to the outbreak.

There’s a difference between saying what should be done – sick workers stay at home – and actually doing it – food service workers may get fired, whether they work with divas or in dives.

Medical doctors are the same.

The Associated Press reports more than half of doctors in training said in a survey that they’d shown up sick to work, and almost one-third said they’d done it more than once.

Dr. Anupam Jena, a medical resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, developed food poisoning symptoms halfway through an overnight shift last year, but said he didn’t think he was contagious or that his illness hampered his ability to take care of patients.

Jena, a study co-author, said getting someone else to take over his shift on short notice "was not worth the cost of working while a bit sick." He was not among the survey participants.

The researchers analyzed an anonymous survey of 537 medical residents at 12 hospitals around the country conducted last year by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. The response rate was high; the hospitals were not identified.

The results appear in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Nearly 58 percent of the respondents said they’d worked at least once while sick and 31 percent said they’d worked more than once while sick in the previous year.

Don’t cook when you’re crook

Does the headline mean, if you’re a convict, don’t cook? Lots of convicts cook. So I checked the dictionary where I found an Australian/New Zealand definition for crook: a situation that is bad, unpleasant, or unsatisfactory, or (of a person or a part of the body) unwell or injured : a crook knee.

It means if you’re sick, don’t work.

With the chill of winter well and truly upon us, the risk of viral gastro contamination heats up, (New South Wales, that’s in Australia, includes Sydney, and it’s what they would call winter right now) Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan warned today as he urged chefs and cooks to take care in the kitchen during the peak viral gastro season.

"This warning applies particularly to those food industry professionals who come into contact with the preparation and service of food for hundreds, if not thousands of people," Minister Whan said.

"If you’re crook don’t cook is a good basic rule to apply in the workplace."

"Under the Food Standards Code it is illegal for food handlers to handle food when they have gastric illness. It is also illegal for food businesses to knowingly have staff working if they have gastric illness.

"The NSW Food Authority is aware of cases where staff have been asked to work when they were sick, or have not told their supervisor they were sick, putting many people at risk.”