Bodily Fluids and Vaccinations

Everyone in NY should be vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

That’s one of the first things I thought when I realised that I had somehow gotten a stranger’s vomit on my jacket and backpack while standing on a subway platform. Thank goodness it’s early spring and I needed layers! Imagine if I had bare sleeves and was wearing shorts?! Oh man I was disgusted. And then I had to get onto a train, sit in the smeared off vomit and wait the 20-odd minutes it took to get to my stop, dreaming of the cleaning products I was going to use to disinfect my belongings. Once I made it into my apartment I discovered that the vomit was wider spread than the glimpses of sleeve and strap I saw on the platform. The horror! I didn’t want to take off either bag or jacket, for fear of where else I’d spread the offending substance, and once I had I didn’t know where to put them. I didn’t even want to drop them on the floor.

“I can truly say I’ve lived in New York now” – another thought I had after seeing the vomit. Of course I’ve heard and read stories about how gross the subway is, but until this past weekend, the worst I’d encountered were splatters of saliva – which don’t get me wrong, are seriously gross enough.

It’s unlike me though, to jump to “Hepatitis B [or any] vaccine” as a necessary and fail proof precaution against the perils of the city. I’d never given the virus any thought at all until two days prior to the vomit incident. I had to go to a clinic to follow up on my physical exam. The physician’s assistant strongly urged me to get the vaccine, and not knowing anything about the disease, I asked her why it was necessary. She said health professionals recommend everyone working with children be vaccinated. That was enough of a reason for me so I agreed. After I got the first shot (it’s given in a series), I received informational material, and learned that among at-risk populations for Hep B are “people with jobs that expose them to human blood or other bodily fluids”.

Well, as a preschool teacher that describes me to a T, and I was happy I had agreed to get the shot. But then Saturday rolled around with its unwelcome gift and I realised how all of us here are at-risk for exposure to human blood or other bodily fluids. I mean, I have noticed a lot of saliva splatters recently, and people hawk and spit around me all the time. Then there was the Friday before my vomit incident, when I had to walk around a huge pile of human faeces. I actually felt a weird sort of satisfaction for that, as another “I’ve lived in NY” token I could point to, like the vomit. This city is gross! And filled with all sorts of people. Maybe if everyone had the Hep B vaccine we could relax a little about all the foreign, intimate bodily substances we regularly run into.

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