Prominent microbiologist sick - so practising what she preaches

Author
Jamie Morton, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 11 Mar 2020, 12:56PM
Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles put her own pandemic preparedness plan into effect early today - by staying home. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles put her own pandemic preparedness plan into effect early today - by staying home. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Prominent microbiologist sick - so practising what she preaches

Author
Jamie Morton, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 11 Mar 2020, 12:56PM

A popular microbiologist is practising what she preaches by staying home after waking with a runny nose.

As it just so happens, associate professor Siouxsie Wiles has written a pandemic preparedness plan for her lab at the University of Auckland, advising her students to do just that.

"Eve [Wiles' daughter] also came in with a bit of a runny nose, so I said, okay, our pandemic plan says if you have mild symptoms, you stay at home," she said.

"I'm sure that this is not Covid-19 related, but we are going to practice what we preach.
"So now she's doing her statistics homework and I've cancelled my lectures this morning and moved all of my meetings online.

"I'm really privileged to be able to do it, but I was able to move things around."

The plan she developed says people shouldn't come into the office or lab, even if they have very mild symptoms of the cold or flu.

"Just let us know what's up, and work from home on your writing and reading if you feel up to it. Or rest and watch Netflix if you don't," it states.

Wiles said she'd told her students she probably wouldn't be back at work tomorrow, which prompted her to think about how she could still keep in contact over conferencing software.

"It made me realise that I don't think we've got any laptops – everybody uses desktop – so we're going to need to fix that problem when I get back.

"The great thing about having a plan and enacting it early is you can fix any flaws before they become a problem."

She recommended other workplaces consider how they might help employees to work remotely when needed.

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles put her own pandemic preparedness plan into effect early today - by staying home. Photo / NZ Herald

Wiles, who has been one of New Zealand's most visible scientists speaking on the Covid-19 crisis, also felt it was important to set an example.

"I probably just wasn't getting enough sleep, but I figured, I'm going to model this behaviour because this is what I'm expecting of all of you.

"It would be ridiculous if I suddenly turned up and started breathing on people. That's not how I'm going to try to get everyone else to behave."

The Ministry of Health encouraged people to practice good hygiene by covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues, washing hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and drying them thoroughly before eating or handling food, and after using the toilet, coughing and sneezing, or caring for sick people.

People who had any concerns were advised to contact the dedicated Covid-19 Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453 – and not to turn up at their GP clinic without phoning first if they suspected they had symptoms.

Official advice for employers can also be found here.