Germ warfare

It starts with that telltale tingle in the back of the throat. Then, like a runaway Mac truck, it hits, leaving everyone in its wake a quaking, quivering, miserable mess. And those are just the well ones.

That’s right – it’s flu season in Durango. And in case you haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing it, trust me, you will – either firsthand or as an innocent bystander left to pick up the pieces and piles of dirty Kleenex.

The dreaded virus wormed its way into our household in the usual way – via the 2½-year-old walking, talking petri dish. It then went on to claim its next victim, the man of the house, who typically laughs in the face of illness, walking outside with wet hair and wearing shorts well into December, daring any little bug to give him its best shot. Well this time, it hit the bull’s eye, and when he finally fell, the silence was deafening.

“I now know why people die of the flu,” he said, as he crawled under a mountain of blankets and pulled them up to his eyeballs, which were now ringed in a lovely shade of red.

And that was the last sign of movement I saw for the next seven days. In fact, if it wasn’t for the growing heap of crumpled tissues thrown in the general direction of the trash can, there would have been no signs of life whatsoever. The room itself reeked of disease – cold sweat mingling with a severe Nyquil hangover and flat Seven-Up.

Fortunately, I am the nurturing sort, and from a safe distance in the hallway, I lifted up my SARS mask to call in and make sure everything was OK before duct-taping the door shut from the outside. This was after all. I then embarked on a few precautionary measures of my own. After amassing a large stockpile of antiviral tissue (what will they think of next?), hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and other weapons in the battle of the bug, I began a massive hand-washing campaign that made Lady Macbeth look tame. I also embarked on a steady diet of over-the-counter remedies, snorting more Zicam up my nose than CBGB’s on a Saturday Night and downing Airborne until my pee was an alarmingly toxic green.

It may seem excessive, but I did stop short of hermetically sealing my 3-month-old in antibacterial bubble wrap. Besides, the approach worked – and for several days I kept the crud at bay. That is, until that fateful night I went in to brush my teeth and noticed the horror of horrors: wet bristles. Seems that somehow, in a fever-induced hallucination, the invalid had become disoriented, mistaking my hygienically sanitized brush for his own.

While this may be grounds for divorce in some states, I decided there was now nothing to do but let fate, and that pesky lump in the back of my throat, take its course. Of course, it would be a lot harder to wake up sick if I never went to sleep, I figured. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to stay up past 10 o’clock since Y2K, and even that was a struggle. It was somewhere around 11:30 p.m. that night, midway through “To Sir With Love,” that I finally succumbed to slumber. But to my amazement, I awoke the next day feeling strong – although curiously unable to shake “Lulu” from my head.

For the next several days, I teetered on the brink of health – both physical and mental. After all, there’s a limit to how many times you can wipe someone else’s nose – even if he happens to be your own flesh and blood and you swore before having children that you would never be one of those parents who lets their child run around with boogers. But after a while, I couldn’t help but feel like I was starring in “Attack of the 3-Foot Slime Creature.” Even nap time offered little respite, filling the air with the congested, snoring cacophony of something between a broken fog horn and rusty chain saw.

OK, I know this may be a little harsh. After all, buoyed by my homeopathic cocktail and sheer paranoia, I was the lucky one who dodged the bullet, escaping relatively unscathed. Unlike the spousal unit, I actually got to leave the house once or twice during the whole ordeal. Sure, losing a third of your body weight in a week may seem like a dream come true to some of us, but believe you, me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be when you sneeze and practically break a rib.

Of course, there’s some who will point out that this all possibly could have been avoided by getting a simple flu shot. And I really have no good excuse other than a healthy dislike of needles and the fact that I once got a shot, only to later contract exactly what it was I was trying to avoid in the first place. I know, vaccine-making is an inexact science, more of an educated crap shoot than anything else (a discussion for another day, please withhold the e-mails). And when next year’s flu vaccine rolls around, I just may be the first to roll up my sleeve.

Now only if they could work on a vaccine for when you’re sick of being sick.

– Missy Votel