This Post Will Not Go Viral

Considering two objective truths of life, that we don’t know what’s going to happen next and death lurks around every corner, it’s funny how we freak out.

I remember during the AIDS crisis (which isn’t actually over, BTW) teaching Poe’s “The Mask of the Red Death.” My students thought (they were international students) it was a story about AIDs. It was the 80s and my students blamed my generation (free love, disco, all that) for the whole thing. “Strangers in the night, AIDS in the morning,” they said.

It was a heated discussion.

Nobody wants to die until they’re ready to die and then? Our society doesn’t make it easy. Still, fear of death isn’t the number 1 fear; apparently people are more afraid of loneliness than death. After death comes the fear of public speaking.

So here we have a new virus. While I think Offal is an idiot, and not handling it well, there’s something to the idea that most people who contract it won’t know it. Like any other virus it will do its thing, run its course, and move on. If it were otherwise, there would have been a different kind of panic in the PRC.

The last one of these things I remember was the very virulent flu in, what, 2009? The H1N1 which came sweeping through the world and the flu shot for that season hadn’t planned on it. I caught it from a student who refused to follow the instructions in my syllabus and stay home when she was sick. It led to two weeks of hell for me and 30% absenteeism in my class. I had a hard time grading her objectively.

Graphic from the CDC showing deaths from H1N!

SO… as far as I can see the best we can do is practice good hygiene, avoid close quarters, stay home if we’re sick and wait it out, hoping for the best which is, I think, about all we can ever do. I don’t think freaking out or panicking is ever useful.

18 thoughts on “This Post Will Not Go Viral

  1. I find the workplace particularly bad for people coming when sick. I don’t know if it’s because they feel they are indispensable or that if they don’t show up, their bosses will not believe they are sick enough to stay home. Whatever it is, I am happy to stay home sick, even if I’m not happy to be sick…

    • I had “Stay home when you’re sick. Absences don’t count in my class!” in big bold letters on my syllabus but virtually NONE of my students believed me. They thought it was a sadistic trick. Thanks to No Child Left Behind etc. they viewed teachers as enemies. They really thought I cared if they were there or not, but I didn’t. I cared if they learned or not. I’m so glad I’m not there any more. 🙂

  2. I’m more like ticked off than freaking out. Nassau County neighbors NYC and there are 80+ people being monitored for exposure. With the population density here, widely-used public transportation, and thoughtless people … well, we’re screwed.

  3. Irrational fear does strange things to people. I agree – if you look at the facts, it really isn’t that much different. Except in a statistical sense which was kind of explained on the news. Bottom line – wash your hands people! Although I will admit during a trip to the airport and a plane ride last week, I sat or stood as far away from other passengers as I could.
    Great scene from Monty Python 🙂

  4. H1N1 was serious, Martha. That must have been horrible for you. I don’t think it spread as quickly as the current virus. We fortunately got the vaccination in Australia.

    When I got whooping cough, I was off work for two months, returned and then was sent home again for five weeks.

    I don’t do colds and flu well. Having been sick for a month now with a bulk standard cold (I had to sleep up last night), the prospect of no protection against this new virus daunts me. It is the being sick part that troubles me not the dying part. The discussion around it only being a problem for the elderly and chronically unwell also worries me. It de=humanises, or maybe I’m just being overly sensitive about that.

    • You’re not being overly sensitive at all. It’s YOUR life. ❤

      I wanted to throttle that student who came to class sick and made all of us sick. How could she know but that one of her classmates (or her teacher?) wasn't an at-risk person? The H1N1 brought my fever up so high I blacked out — and living alone that's dangerous. I dealt, but I can't take NSAIDs so… I am SURE it will not only be a problem for the elderly and chronically unwell. It's a problem in the world right now and politicizing it (which is happening here) doesn't help anything. When I hear someone say, "Yeah, but the death rate is only 2%" I want to say, "Yeah? That's 100% for the people who died, you inhuman fuck."

  5. If people would use a bit of commonsense and stay home when they are sick, wash their hands and generally try to use good hygiene practices it would help a lot. The work thing is tricky because here at least employers want you to have a doctors certificate if you stay off work even if you don’t get paid sick days. It’s getting really hard to get an appointment at some surgeries though. Last winter people were waiting a week to see the local GP in Geeveston. Of course, many people can’t afford not to get paid too or they are afraid that their bosses will get mad at them for taking time off. I get that but if you are sick a few days at home to get over it is better than soldiering on, performing poorly at work and spreading the germs around.

  6. I remember Swine Flu, Bird Flu, heck I was in college when HIV/AIDS first burst on the scene. All of it is scary but there are precautions and as you pointed out we are responsible for our actions… If that student had only kept it to herself! The sad part for most viruses is that they are shed and infective before symptoms actually manifest. So we are always at risk – but that’s where hand washing comes into play…

  7. I hope all my blogger friends are doing well and looking after the needy, in these exceptionally difficult and trying times.

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