Was It A Fierce Flu Or A Vicious Virus?

The reports of the COVID-19 virus taking over the world were bad enough. Then I read the symptoms.

“Fever, cough, shortness of breath” were the manifestations to watch for. Wait, what? I had every one of them.

I read further. Been to China recently? No. Been in contact with someone who has been to China recently? Not that I was aware of, although Catherine and I had attended a crowded event in Minneapolis at the end of January. We shook a lot of hands. We had been in other public places. Who hasn’t?

But at that point it couldn’t have been the new virus unless one of the nasty critters made a quantum leap from China to Minnesota. We were not even aware of it yet. No, we got something else making the rounds now.

Catherine was the first to get sick. Her coughing was like hitting Facebook’s Share button. So I got it as her birthday gift to me when I turned 65 a few days later. We both had received the flu shot in October. I followed protocol: rest, fluids, pain reliever. And don’t rush to the doctor unless you get really sick, which leaves a lot to interpretation. Plainly, doctors can’t do much if it’s a virus. And antibiotics are for bacterial infections. You know the storyline. OK, I’ll ride this out, I thought.

Catherine recovered in about two weeks. None of my symptoms were overly bad, just annoying and never-ending. I rummaged through our various out-of-date and mostly empty cold remedies. Usually, by the time I finally find some combination that works, the disease is over.

What I definitely know from experience is that NyQuil works well at night but it has consequences. Like feeling foggy the entire next day. Not a good idea if you have to give a presentation at work. We used to take Sudafed tablets practically by the handful. Cleared the sinuses and kept you awake better than coffee. But not to be taken at bedtime. No wonder it’s a main ingredient in methamphetamine.

Then, because of the meth problem, a weak substitute was introduced. Sudafed and other products containing pseudoephedrine were put behind the counter. If you still want them, you can get them after enduring something akin to fingerprinting and a background check.

I found a bottle of zinc tablets in our collection of miracle remedies. “Take at the first sign of a cold,” the bottle says. Look for them in the placebo aisle.

After five weeks of suffering, I decided to go to the Same Day Clinic. They made me wear a mask. One that ties at the back of your head. They were already out of the simple rubber band type. This was as bad as trying to tie the strings on the gown they give you for exams. There were a lot of masked patients and some who should have been. My glasses fogged up with each breath.

Just when it was turning into the Wait All Day Clinic I got my two minutes with the doctor. But that’s all I needed. He asked the standard questions about coughing and fever. What was your temp when you had a fever? I hadn’t taken it. Pain in the facial glands? No. Traveled out of the country recently? No. What color is your mucous? Green. (Even their questions are sanitary.) Are you allergic to any antibiotics? No. I told him I’m likely to have longer duration colds because I take a medication that lowers my immunity.

He’d heard enough. He looked through my records and saw that I had been prescribed amoxicillin awhile back. I’m sure he wanted to move on to the next patient so he guessed I might have a bacterial infection. He sent in a prescription and said “Be careful. There’s a lot of bugs out there.” I headed to the drug store and waited some more.

When I was a kid in the East End, the flu I remember was just stomach flu which meant a day or two of throwing up. Then you were fine. It probably was food poisoning from some just discovered tinfoil-wrapped leftover that Mom heated up. Colds? We were always wiping our noses on our sleeves. But colds didn’t slow us down much.

Now, each year we get a vaccination. And by the time the shots are ready, the flu bug might have mutated into a slightly different target and the shot might miss the bullseye. Still worth getting, but not always perfect.

It’s fascinating to see how COVID-19 has affected the world in such a short time. Suddenly, every country has been forced to stop in its tracks and work together on it. Factories slow down or close, transportation is diminished. Trade wars lose meaning when you can’t even ship or receive product. Retirement funds take a dive as the stock market plunges. Schools close, sporting events are postponed. The things that were so important a month ago take a back seat to acquiring canned food, bottled water and face masks. Maybe God is performing a reboot of the world.

Meanwhile, my ailment has subsided, having received copious amounts of nourishment and rest. The antibiotic might have helped, but in this case a placebo might have been just as effective.

Maybe this was just a practice disease to prepare me for whatever comes next.

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