Minnesotans are typically a demure folk. Some might say we're born into a culture of euphemisms and politeness, stoicism and shared silences. Our children learn early that the best way to handle a sensitive matter is to talk circles around it until the day they die.
Which is why attorney K. Davis Senseman did a double take when one particular City of Minneapolis email landed in their inbox last week.
Under the chipper subject line, "It's norovirus season!" the City of Minneapolis health department issued a warning about the spread of this winter plague: Norovirus is "the leading cause of foodborne illness" and it is "very contagious."
This you likely knew. You also likely knew that norovirus brings symptoms which most reserved Minnesotans would rather contract than talk about out loud.
No need to say a word. The email advisory and accompanying one-sheet includes a helpful graphic to remind you exactly what awaits if you defy the warning to wash hands and disinfect surfaces.
"I thought it was fantastic!" said Senseman, an attorney who handles transactional law for small businesses and nonprofits. "These emails are often boring. It made me read something I might have filed away and never read."
Senseman shared the discovery on Twitter, prompting some incredulous responses ("is this real? source?") and some one-upmanship from the Minnesota Department of Health:
According to Cindy Weckwerth, supervisor for the City of Minneapolis Department of Health, the evocative depiction of gastrointestinal distress is no mistake — and no exaggeration.
"We designed a graphic that would bridge any language barriers and depict what norovirus is really like," she said. The email was sent out as a reminder to people — especially those working in food service — to stay home if they experience symptoms.
"In our restaurants there are many people who aren't English speakers. And people are so busy, there's not always time to stop and read the details. We wanted someone to be able to see this and think, 'Oh my gosh, that's me, I probably shouldn't be at work,'" said Weckwerth.
No, you decidedly should not be at work.
In fact, if you've had norovirus, Weckwerth said you shouldn't return to the job until at least 72 hours after symptoms have abated: "People can still transmit the sickness after they feel better."
As for the hundreds of retweets and thousands of likes the graphic has gotten, Weckwerth is thrilled.
"We're delighted," she said. "People are talking about handwashing!"