I’ve got your Swine flu right *here*

Have you had the swine flu?

Know anyone who did (or has it)?

In retrospect, it’s easy to see the whole of N1H1’s public lifespan and observe how our public attitude has evolved to accept the “terrible” new virus.

When Swine flu cases were first spit up by the news in March of last year, exaggerated panic flooded the airwaves and reports would have you believe we were living out Chapter 1 of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” The sky was falling. At first it was the “hybrid” flu, a really messed up name which sounded insanely ominous.

A flu is one thing; once the public begins to learn about the genetic and scientific background of the influenza virus and its transmission venues, all hell is bound to break loose. And it did.

The influenza virus has been the subject of mystery and mortal darkness for ages, but most people simply don’t pay attention or bother to learn anything about it other than dealing with it when they are struck down. Not until then do we give it any thought and instead prefer at that point to shovel medicine into our mouths and pass out for a few days before limping back to rehabilitation. We don’t give the virus another thought.

The Swine flu has undergone a rough evolution in the public perception since last year. Initially it was the biblical plague come to lay waste to the human race. We saw photographs of people wearing masks. Mexico City looked like one big smoggy ER ward. I saw a few people here in L.A. wearing large surgical masks as well, right about the time I read that they might do nothing to stave off the tiny virus.

Little by little the clinical blandness of its attack became more commonly known.

Now it was “N1H1” and we learned all about its genetic heritage which spanned across several unrelated species. The virus underwent more name changes than Prince. And it attacked in waves. At first, an outbreak, then an epidemic, now a pandemic. When can we officially call it a pestilence?

We even went through a period where the Swine flu was stigmatized and people seemed reluctant to admit they or someone they knew might have it. And pigs, the poor little piggies. Vilified and ruthlessly blamed for the Apocalypse. For a while it seemed everyone was Jewish or Muslim.

Just recently I’ve learned (second-hand, of course) of 3 Swine flu cases within a relatively small circle I’m loosely connected to. Ladies and gentlemen, the swine flu virus is ready for you.

At work they’ve been offering an H1N1 flu vaccination. Notices are posted everywhere about washing your hands. In the Metro stations the television screens occasionally flash PSA public health pointers about curtailing the spread of illness. Even buses are boasting posters imploring us to stay home if sick. Yeah man, if anyone should be warning the public about microbial contamination, it’s public transportation agencies. Some of the shit I’ve seen on buses and trains is is downright scary. Hell, well before the swine flu I would wash my hands with the fastidious care of a pre-surgical rub down the minute I stepped off any bus. Those are germ farms on wheels (or rails).

A couple of years I ago I saw some sick fuck on the bus literally pick his nose, study his little prize, and rub it on the empty seat next to him. Not pretty.

Well, anyways my point being that I believe we’re reached the point in N1H1’s PR campaign where we can safely say its “de-stigmatization” has begun. H1N1 “victims” themselves and relatives, acquaintances, neighbors are now testifying to their viral exposure enmasse, and while not announcing it at the public square, are nevertheless willing to share the information. Typhoid Mary has become Typhoid Joe Blow. Swine flu is yours and mine.

I just don’t want to catch it.
The swine flu or any flu for that matter.

True influenza is a glimpse into the maw of death. It bends you over the log and butt rapes the hell out of you. While a banjo plays in the background and you just want it to stop.

I say “true influenza” because I notice a lot of people don’t seem to grasp what the flu is. It’s as if they never had it. How can that be? Don’t they remember the experience? Maybe they aren’t in touch with their bodies. I think a lot of folk suffer a disjunction with their physical being. Even when they are very sick they don’t feel it, experience it. And thus have no memory of the vile illness.

I’ve had the flu less than a handful of times in my life. And I remember every damn one of them.

The last time was February, 2008. I wonder if that might have been a very early case of N1H1. I doubt it. That’s wishful thinking…for if it was, I should have some degree of immunity now.

According to Wikipedia,

While it is not known precisely where or when the virus originated, analyses in scientific journals have suggested that the H1N1 strain responsible for the current outbreak first evolved in September 2008 and circulated amongst humans for several months before being formally recognized and identified as a novel strain of influenza.

Damn, missed it by about 7 months.

The only thing I can say about my 2008 flu was that it did affect my gastric system unlike previous bouts. I remember clearly, the Monday after the Super Bowl, I came down with a dry cough while at work. Felt sorta crappy. By bedtime I was feeling worse and I crashed earlier than normal.

The next morning I literally had to drag myself out of bed. I tried to lift weights and I just gave up. I lift weights through anything, so this was unusual. Over the next couple of days I slept about 18-20 hours each day. I had a severe fever and I felt weak and shitty beyond description. I had the chills, the kind that strike you to the bone.

On Thursday morning I thought I could do it. I tried to lift weights and was able to push some weight but it was an absolute joke. During some .25M deadlifts (25% of my max) I felt like I was going to faint. NO kidding, just pass out there in my dining room. I drank some water and it nearly came right back up. I had no appetite and at the expense of being too graphic…I was sitting on the can a lot. The world felt disconnected…I felt like a foreigner in this reality. That is feverish malaise. The brain, subjected to unusually high temperatures, defaults to delusion. Fever dreams.

Just thinking of the ordeal makes me feel sick again. Makes the latent antibodies in my body start to rev up in anticipation of my recollections becoming reality.

That’s why I laugh when I hear people complain of the flu at the first sign of sniffles. Flu’s begin with dry coughs, not sniffles. That’s a cold, my friend. If the common cold is a fender bender, the flu is head-on collision.

Yup, the flu sucks, but it’s not all bad. We can thank it in part for some splendid artwork, courtesy of Halls cough drops and a winter marketing campaign. These posters have been showing up on some MTA Red Line cars: