Monday, September 19, 2011

The Story of Sally Sanders

Back in grade school, before there were anti-bullying laws and bans on dodge ball, we generally felt free to call each other names and say other unspeakable things to one another.  A number of examples of names I called other kids come to mind (some of which, if said today, would no doubt result in me being sentenced to in-school suspension and certain teachers who encouraged said comments to be fired or worse).  Perhaps the worst cursing any third grader could muster would be to allege those four fatal words no kid at my school ever wanted to hear:  You love Sally Sanders.

Before I go any further with this, let me say that a) I’ve changed the young lady’s name to a pseudonym, which probably isn’t necessary because b) I don’t think she even existed.  Despite the fact no one could ever produce a picture of her, and that all we really knew about her was what one kid’s big brother whose sister rode the bus with Sally told another girl, it never kept us from designating Sally as persona non grata in the hallowed halls of our elementary school.

Sally was an amalgamation of every malady known to third graders.  A chronic cootie carrier, we were all certain Sally likely tested positive for some other horrible diseases, far worse than anthrax or Ebola.  Telling a kid they loved Sally Sanders, the human petri dish, usually resulted in a fight on the playground during recess. 

Watching the trailer for the new pandemic movie Contagion reminded me of Sally and brought back a flood of memories from my youth. Contagion, starring Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, portrays what life might be like during a pandemic.  Lawrence Fishburne does a good job portraying a doctor at the Centers for Disease Control.  He’s come a long way since his days on Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse.

Is The Bird/Swine/Monkey/Cobra Flu Coming?

The United Nations announced recently it was concerned about another possible outbreak of H5N1.  The world collectively yawns at the news, having been down this road of government admonitions to take baths in Purel and wear a hazmat suit when outside during flu season.  While it’s easy and fun to be critical of the UN and other governmental efforts to warn us about the possibility of pandemic, we must bear in mind pandemic prediction remains a relatively undeveloped sub-specialty. 
So What's a Brother To Do?
First and foremost, remember a flu pandemic spreads the same way any other flu might spread.  While it's true the birds/swine/monkeys/cobras/insert animal of choice here may spread the flu, we're most likely to get it from each other.  Which means when you people are around me, you better be coughing into your damn sleeve, using Purel, washing your hands a lot, and staying home from work when you're sick. 

One additional step I took years ago was to stock up on N100 masks.  These are capable of filtering out particles down to 0.3 microns with 99.97% reliability, according the manufacturer 3M.  Given that, they can significantly reduce the chances of inhaling germs when you're out wandering around watching people fight over the last food shipment at the grocery store.  (A friend actually reported seeing two women at our local grocery store fight over the last loaf of bread during the last pandemic scare....)
Finally, if you can score some Tamiflu, do it.  I gather Dr. Grattan Woodson in Atlanta can hook you up if you're willing to become his patient.  (In his previous manual, he discusses how you can use only one dose of Tamiflu for days on end by - get this - drinking your own urine.  No joke.  It appears he has since removed this technique from his literature.)

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