Ant Study Proves Social Network Pathogen-Trigger Response is Natural

The title is a mouthful, I know. If someone has a better suggestion I’m all ears. In the meantime, a new study reveals researchers have been busily infecting ants and tracking their response:

Social animals could potentially further reduce epidemic risk by altering their social networks in the presence of pathogens, yet there is currently no evidence for such pathogen-triggered responses. We tested this hypothesis experimentally in the ant Lasius niger using a combination of automated tracking, controlled pathogen exposure, transmission quantification, and temporally explicit simulations. Pathogen exposure induced behavioral changes in both exposed ants and their nestmates, which helped contain the disease by reinforcing key transmission-inhibitory properties of the colony’s contact network.

It’s an interesting point to bring up among managers in the U.S. who argue that workers should be commended for never, ever taking sick leave, or any leave for that matter.

The United States is one of the few industrialized countries without statutory national mandates for paid leave.

The Americans who deny sick leave not only create a national security risk, they also are taking an unnatural position. Fortunately lawmakers have been slowly working towards recognizing the security benefits of granting leave.

San Francisco first passed a law in 2007 granting one hour paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. That concept has been adopted in five states, 26 cities, a county, and even Washington D.C…then New York City passed a paid sick leave law in 2013.

You never will guess what happened next:

It’s sick the way some health care providers are among the most egregious violators of the city’s paid sick leave law this year. Montefiore Medical Center was forced to pay $114,997…

Sad but true. The mounting fines were just evidence of how badly a law was needed to change some people’s opinions about sick leave.

In even more positive news, President Obama called in 2015 for seven paid sick leave days for all workers in America. His economic arguments were sound advice for improving security of the nation:

When 43 million private-sector workers are without any paid sick leave, too many workers are unable to take the time they need to recover from an illness. Many workers will go to work sick, putting their coworkers and customers at risk of illness. And even if workers have access to paid sick leave for themselves, they may not be able to use it to care for sick children. This forces many parents to choose between taking an unpaid day off work—losing much needed income and potentially threatening his or her job—and sending a child who should be home in bed to school.

Just as importantly, a body of research shows that offering paid sick days and paid family leave can benefit employers by reducing turnover and increasing productivity. Paid sick days would help reduce lost productivity due to the spread of illness in the workplace. And these policies can benefit our economy by fostering a more productive workforce.

Unfortunately his leadership wasn’t enough to overcome the unnatural desire of Congress to block sick leave. Some argued businesses are too weak to survive a law that helps them survive weakness. Yeah, Congress can be really dumb. That meant the issue, although gaining national leadership recognition, reverted back to local level where it repeatedly has proven itself a sound idea.

After evidence poured in (as many sanely predicted) that a sick leave law has no negative economic effects only positive ones, even New Jersey just adopted it statewide in 2018

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed into law the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act, which will provide eligible employees with paid leave for their own medical needs, those of a family member, or other covered reasons. The Act will take effect on October 29, 2018.

This is great news, and all the other states should follow suit if Congress is too weak to be able to get its thinking together at the federal level.

Tragic stories of pathogens in the news today only drive home the point of leave time improving everyone’s safety and productivity:

The number of sick people is increasing every day. Twenty-five people have been to the hospital for medical support. Staff serving the shelters have also been sick. The outbreak has been identified and confirmed by the Butte County public health laboratory to be the Norovirus which is highly contagious. Norovirus spreads through touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, close contact with someone who is infected, or eating contaminated food or drink.

[…] Please follow these recommended steps to prevent further spread: Stay home if there is any sign of illness…

America should do it because network pathogen-response is natural. I can only hope the next President proposes an Anti-pathogen National Trigger (ANT) Act to grant paid sick leave nation-wide. It would bring everyone together on a topic that naturally separates them.

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