Friday, November 13, 2009

Are we sick yet?

HALLIE: Only one of us at JRW has come down with it, but we're all, to varying degrees, obsessing over H1N1.

At a recent ‘no handshake’ conference, hundreds of folks were bonking elbows, like we were doing a demented version of the chicken dance. Hugging and air kissing without inhaling. You could barely turn around without knocking over a bottle of hand sanitizer, and people were whipping them out of pockets and purses. We all heard about one of the organizers who came down with the flu on the first day of the conference, and I agonized over how long I’d stood chatting with her, envisioning the little H1N1 vermin-y creatures frolicking in the air between us.

The CDC does nothing to allay our fears. It says those who are infected “shed virus and may be able to infect others from 1 day before getting sick to 5 to 7 days after.” And yes, little balls of spit or perspiration from an infected person can survive on surfaces and remain infectious for 2 to 8 hours. It’s not just other people you have to worry about. Your pet ferret can infect you if he gets sick with H1N1.

How to prevent catching the virus if it’s on your hands? The CDC recommends that when you wash those hands -- with soap and warm water -- keep going for 15 to 20 seconds. This is roughly equivalent to singing Row, row, row your boat… all the way through twice. You could get arrested for hanging out in a rest room that long.

RHYS: On the West Coast we seem to have become blase about it. Last spring we were passing around hand sanitizer and not shaking hands as a sign of peace in church. Now we're back to hugging again. My two granddaughters were home last week with flu. Was it swine flu, do they think? I asked. Probably, my daughter replied. They weren't very sick and I suppose it's good news if lots of kids have it mildly and will then be immune, but there's no vaccine available. There isn't even regular flu vaccine available, so there's not much we can do.

I did hear a recommendation that one gargle with salt water regularly and put a little alcohol inside the nostrils. Personally I go to the sauna at my health club. That degree of heat should zap most viruses!

HANK: I carry little packets of hand sanitizer, and I'm always swabbing my desk and my phone. And the phone in the edit booth. I do shake hands, but I know I hesitate, and afterwards I do kind of think about hand sanitizer. We drove a pal to work the other day, and when he coughed, I freaked. But when a grape fell on the floor of my office, and I picked it up and ate it. So, I guess it depends. Luckily, (in so many ways),I don't have a pet ferret.

JAN: Back from the doctor who told I'm in recovery from the swine flu. It was one really, really bad day. One not so good day, and a killer cold afterward. But hey, I got steroids!! Which of course, means no major league baseball for me for at least six months! -- good thing its off season.

HALLIE: No baseball. No ferrets. What's life coming to?

How nutty have you gotten? Take the Jungle Red swine flu quiz and find out just how sick are we...

1. When you meet someone, do you:
a. Shake hands (0)
b. Shake hands and within minutes spritz with a hand sanitizer (1)
c. Bump elbows (2)
d. Wave and say hello through a surgical mask (3)

2. If your eye itches do you
a. Rub it with your hand (0)
b. Rub it with a tissue (1)
c. Squint and suffer (2)
d. Wipe it down with hand sanitizer (3)

3. Your good friend invites you to a party. Do you:
a. Go and have a good time, as always (0)
b. Go but bring your own dishes and food and drink (1)
c. Go wearing a gas mask with a hepafilter (2)
d. Stay home--feels like you're coming down with something. Besides, who needs parties? (3)

4. When you have to sign your credit card bill, do you:
a. Use the pen provided (0)
b. Use the pen provided and then spritz your hand (1)
c. Spritz the pen with hand sanitizer and then use it (2)
d. Eschew the communal pen and use your own (3)

5. When you walk up a staircase, do you:
a. Hold onto the railing (0)
b. Pull your sleeve down over your hand and hold the railing (1)
c. Pull out glove that you have for just this purpose, put it on and hold onto the railing (2)
c. You’re tough—who needs railings? (3)

6. If someone in the room with you sneezes or coughs, do you:
a. Cringe (0)
b. Stop inhaling (1)
c. Duck and cover (2)
d. Gargle with hand sanitizer (3)

7. How many times in the last month have you felt sick enough to check your own temp?
a. None (0)
b. Once (1)
c. Three times (2)
d. Several times a week, in fact, right now I don't feel so good (3)

8. Have you stopped eating (drinking):
a. Food that someone else coughed over (0)
b. Water from a drinking fountain (1)
c. Water from the tap (2)
d. Pork (3)

How much are you obsessing over the flu?
If your TOTAL score is 0-4
**Go check your temperature right now - you've probably come down with it.
If you scored 5-15
**Nice try - but like the rest of us you'll probably get it, too
If you scored 16-24
**Getting H1N1 is probably the least of your worries


  1. Ha ha so funny Hallie! (She just roomed with me at Bouchercon, so she knows darn well I'm a nut about germs...) I have the hand sanitizer in car, home, purse, everywhere, and I use it early and often! Now headed to Crimebake--yikes, so sorry you can't be there Jan, but glad your experience wasn't TOO bad. I'm trying to train my husband to use the hand sanitizer. I want him to take it to the bridge table and the tennis court. For some reason, he's holding out:)

  2. The office where I work is dripping with hand sanitizer. It's everywhere!

  3. Hey, Roberta - I'm with John. We'll see how everyone is at Crime Bake.

    Hi Joanne - I'm embarassed to admit that I have a bottle of the stuff on MY desk, and it's in my house in my little room where I work where I'm not going to catch anyone's germs but my own and my husband's (whose germs I'm gonna catch anyway).

  4. Around here, we're more into challenging the immune syatem. Anti-bacterials simply create mega-bugs, and don't kill viruses anyway.

    On our recent cruise, there were hand sanitizing stations everywhere. We flew to Quebec to an international conference. All past conferences have circulated some sort of 'bug', but hubby and I have avoided them. This one was no different. People got sick. We didn't. I don't think it was the flu, though.

    Our doctor doesn't recommend the flu shots for folks in our age/health demographic. He said we're not likely to have complications of the flu, and the side-effects of the vaccine can be just as bad.

    We've been interviewing Realtors; all of them have offered handshakes, and we've returned them without thinking about it.

  5. I'm a germaphobe not because of the flu but because of an infection that I got in my leg that laid me low for three months. They thought it could be MRSA -- the big bad bug -- but it wasn't. BUT germs are everywhere and they aren't necessarily our friends. Re H1N1, I had a bad cold recently but not the H1N1. My personal philosophy is the flu happens every season and some people die from it every season. The media is enflaming this one beyond normal and people therefore are freaking out more. Don't let them control your situation.

  6. Great post! I laughed my way through the quiz :)

  7. Not quite sure why I need a ferret.
    Would someone explain?

  8. At my Toastmaster's club, we alternate between a short bow and the elbow bump. The first week produced guffaws and giggles, but now it seems quite normal.

    Judy C.