Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's been a slow week

Not sure if it's simple ennui or, more likely given that this is Atlanta in the spring, pollen poisoning, but I haven't had much interest in the intertubes lately. Been neglecting reading my favorite blogs, and haven't felt much interest in posting either. I do the trek back and forth to work each day, edit papers describing various exotic infectious diseases, add another country to the list of places I'll never go or another food to the list of things I'll never eat, then go home and settle down to rot my brain with mediocre books or mindless television. Not even the panic over flying pigs spreading killer disease has done much to wake me up.

Of course, it's hard to get excited about influenza (chills, fever, generally crappy feeling) after reading about 30-meter long tapeworms resulting from eating sushi. Thirty meters! That's a lot of parasite to have crawl out of your butt. How does anyone manage to walk around with something that long residing in their gut and not know it?! Yet another reason to avoid eating bait. (Apparently it is possible to kill the tapeworm larva without cooking the fish -- you flash freeze it to below -20 degrees Celsius and keep it that cold for at least 12 hours -- but true sushi and sashimi fans prefer their salmon so fresh it's still flopping around as the chef starts slicing.)

Because I work at Large Nameless Agency, a government entity that has a fairly high profile in public health, I've been getting lots of e-mails from various friends and acquaintances asking me about swine flu. As if I'd know. I'm getting my information the same way every else in the country is: by watching the acting director do press conferences and/or issue statements. About the only thing that differentiates me from the general public is I already own an N95 mask, the result of respirator training I had almost a year ago. (An N95 mask is one step up from the cheapest type of dust mask, but not by much.) What we're hearing (or reading) internally is the same thing they're telling the public, which is basically wash your hands often and don't sneeze on other people -- and if you feel sick, stay home instead of going to work and spreading your germs. In essence, the acting director is telling me the same stuff my mother would.

I will concede there is a certain amount of schadenfreude to be had in watching the Repugnicans highlighted in sound bites on CNN, clips of them bloviating a few weeks ago when they railed against giving any money to the CDC, FDA, Homeland Security, and other agencies for pandemic disease preparedness. Susan Collins in particular must be experiencing a lot of "Let me just die now" moments when she watches the news these days -- assuming she does, which is always debatable with politicians. Wolf Blitzer was like a puppy with a new chew toy yesterday, playing the clip over and over and over of Collins sounding smug and happy about taking money away from public health preparedness. Heard a great line somewhere to the effect that "Texas governor Rick Goodhair Perry has deferred rejecting federal aid until after the CDC ships the state its allotment of Tamiflu."

One of the more interesting aspects of this whole swine flu thing for me is seeing again just how many people have no clue just what exactly influenza is or how you get it. Listening to "idiot on the street" interviews where people say astoundingly dumb stuff like "I've stopped eating pork" floors me. Influenza is an air-borne upper respiratory infection -- the only way eating pork could give it to anyone would be if a sick waiter sneezed on a ham sandwich just before serving it to you. It's not enteric, you don't get the trots. Zillions of people get the flu every year while thinking it's a common cold, then they suffer food poisoning and think they've got the flu when it's actually salmonellosis. Very strange. Not particularly surprising considering the sad state of science education in this country, but still strange. You'd think if people were willing to line up to get shots to prevent an illness they'd at least have some idea of just what the symptoms for that illness are, but apparently not.


  1. "You'd think if people were willing to line up to get shots to prevent an illness they'd at least have some idea of just what the symptoms for that illness are, but apparently not." You said a mouthful. Some people feel educated if they get third and fourth hand information.

  2. i've been running around telling everyone it's the end of days..we're all going to die of the swine/avian flu and be dead by 2012..haha


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