Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

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next week's column: A Fevered Reaction to Swine Flu

On an unrelated note, my traditional Christmas icon might have a curse word in it this year. THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the F-dash-dash-dash word. This is not a reflection of my opinions about Christmas (it concerns Santa's naughty list); it's just that Emily made me a really, really great icon this year, and I'm very happy with it. You'll see, come Thanksgiving ...


Many people still don’t understand the fuss over the H1N1 flu, since it doesn’t seem much worse than the regular flu. The outbreak was first identified in Mexico (but didn’t originate there) and is related to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 (which didn’t originate in Spain) It should be noted that speaking Spanish does not in any way change a person’s chance of getting it.

So far, H1N1 has killed “only” 6,500 people or so, far less than deaths from heart attacks, lightning strikes, lawyers, or other freaks of nature. Still, in reality it’s important to take the threat seriously. In theory, laughter is the best medicine. In practice, what you’re about to read could go either way.

Let’s find out more about H1N1, which was also called swine flu, before the name was changed to avoid upsetting our tasty little four footed friends:

H1N1 is also called novel influenza A, but fiction it is not. As of the end of October, the incidence of this flu had increased 330%, a rate of rise matched only by the national debt. The only time a virus ever spreads more rapidly is in zombie movies.

The reason officials are so worried about H1N1 is that the strain is closely related to the influenza of 1918, which also struck mostly healthy young adults, and was apparently the cause of an encephalitis lethargica outbreak a few years later. No, I don’t know what that is either, but it sounds way worse than “Spanish Flu”.

In the two years during which Spanish Flu was at its worse, a third of the world’s population was infected, ranging from the Arctic Circle to remote islands in the Pacific. At least 50 million people -- 3% of the population at the time -- died. That’s the equivalent of about 200 million people today. Over half a million died in the United States, which, ironically, is roughly the same number of people required to write this year’s House and Senate health care bills.

Factors in the spread of the flu back then included war going on along more than one front, a downturned worldwide economy, and the fact that transportation systems were much more fast and modernized than in the past. Thank goodness none of that is going on today.

If you think the worst might be over, you should know that the 1918 flu arrived in two waves, and the second was far worse than the first. So what do we do to try and limit our exposure? Well, there are regular flights to the International Space Station, or you could have yourself immersed in liquid nitrogen until it’s all over, but here are a few somewhat more common sense things we could try:

1. Frequent hand washing.

Well, that’s anticlimactic, isn’t it? Still, as your mother always used to say, you don’t know where those things have been. As when conversing with your pastor, the best advice would be to keep it clean.

2. Hands Off the Face.

After all, some of us don’t know where our faces have been, either. All sorts of germy little viruses (you doctors, you get that joke) get transmitted into the body by way of hand to face activity. As a bonus, when you avoid moving your hands toward your face you’ll tend to lose weight, unless you’re very good at catching food out of the air.

A special note: Avoid getting your hands too close to someone else’s face. If you’re paying so little attention that you don’t know where your own face has been, you sure as heck don’t know where theirs has been. Also, it’s considered impolite. More also, they may themselves be practicing Hands Off the Face, which means they haven’t eaten for awhile, and in their half starved state your fingers might resemble those cute little mini wieners.

It’s especially important that you don’t wave your hands in the face of a zombie. Oh, I know, it doesn’t seem likely – but remember what I said earlier about the spread of zombie viruses. Those guys are hungry, and they’re not after just brain food. If you have to fend them off, use a long stick, which can also be handy in case of a vampire apocalypse.

3. Gargle twice a day with warm salt water.

H1N1 takes a couple of days before it proliferates enough to show symptoms, and simple gargling can help stop the spread. But let’s be very, very clear on this: they’re talking about salt water. This is not an excuse to supersize your fries.

4. Clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water.

Well, that’s just ew. However, blowing your nose hard once a day (and what would be the point of blowing your nose soft?), then swabbing both nostrils with Q-Tips dipped in warm salt water, can bring down the viral population.

How does it work? Suppose you’re just sitting around one day when suddenly a hurricane category 5’s its way through your town, followed by a giant storm of salt soaked cotton! That would sure as heck bring down the population, wouldn’t it? First to go would be those who suffer from high blood pressure.

5. Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C.

I would suggest a screwdriver, which is part orange juice and part alcohol. Everyone knows alcohol kills germs. It also does wonders for pain … not right away, maybe, but after a few doses.

6. Drink as much warm liquids as you can.

This has the same effect as gargling, in that the viruses get washed out of town and into the stomach, where, like goldfish at a sorority initiation, they die. And again with the ew. For those of you who are wondering, yes, a screwdriver can be served warm.

So, how well do these steps really work? I dunno. But surely they can’t hurt (except for the vodka), and they beat the heck out of a trip to the doctor. Getting the flu might not be as serious as a zombie invasion, but in real life it’s a lot more likely.
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark

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