There's a plague stalking the land and I'm terrified. But here's how to avoid Norovirus meltdown ...
Fear stalks the land; stalks my land at any rate. I've landed a starring role in my own personal horror movie: Day of the Norovirus. Gastric flu, the winter vomiting bug, spewmonia: whatever you want to call it, it's out there, somewhere, festering on every surface, waiting to infect me. Britain is diseased: a septic isle bobbing on an ocean of warm sick.
The media have had a field day, and to an emetophobe like me (someone with an uncontrollable, inbuilt fear of puking), this merely amplifies the terror. A headline such as "Vomiting bug spreads across nation" sets my pulse racing twice as effectively as "Mad axeman on loose".
Even worse are the war stories: vivid blog postings from survivors, gleefully describing the full extent of their biological meltdown. They're trying to outdo each other.
"I had to lie naked in the bath for three days, blasting hot fluid from both ends."
"Yeah? Well I vomited so hard, all the hair on my head got sucked inside my skull and out my mouth."
"Pfff - think that's bad? At one point I spewed with such force, the jet fired me backwards through a stained-glass window, and I literally burst apart on the patio, sending a geyser of vomit and crap 600 feet into the sky."
And if they're not online, they're crawling into the office to tell you all about them. While still infectious. If I was running things, it would be dealt with like a zombie outbreak: shoot all victims in the head at the first sign of infection, then barricade the windows till the end credits roll.
Worse still, it apparently strikes without warning. Infection takes 12-28 hours to come to fruition, quietly making its way to your small intestine, and, at first, you're none the wiser. The physical symptoms come on so suddenly, you only truly know you've got it when you suddenly spot a jet of vomit flying away from your face. And then you're locked in. It's like knowing the sun could explode at any second and being powerless to prevent it.
Naturally I want to avoid it like the plague, because it is a plague. And I've become an expert. Here's how to avoid it yourself.
Forget those fancy anti-bacterial handgels. They're pointless. Don't worry about breathing it in; unless you're unlucky enough to inhale a fresh droplet of sick or faeces (which can happen if someone explodes right beside you), you can still get away unscathed even if someone in your immediate vicinity comes down with it. It's not carried in saliva either. The one thing you must do is wash your hands with hot water and soap for a minimum of 15 seconds before putting them in your mouth, nose or eyes.
Easier said than done. Once you're aware of it, it's incredible how often you touch a shared surface, then your mouth, without even thinking. Say you pop to the newsagents and buy a bag of crisps: that door handle could be caked in sick germs, and you've just slid them down your gullet along with the salt and vinegar. Or you're in an office: you use someone else's keyboard, then eat a sandwich. Why not lick a toilet bowl and have done with it?
But even washing your hands is tricky. Take the workplace toilet. The door handle, the taps and the button on the automated dryer may all be infected. You have to turn the tap with your elbow, wash for 15 seconds (time it: it's longer than you think), then turn the tap off with the other elbow. Then you'll need two paper towels: one to dry yourself, and the other to open the door with on your way out. Unless you do all of this, you're doomed.
I've become an obsessive compulsive disorder case study, repeatedly washing my hands like Lady Macbeth on fast-forward, acutely aware of where my hands are at all times, what I've just touched, and where they're heading next. It's exhausting, like consciously counting every blink.
Yesterday, in an attempt to prod some sanity back into my life, I went to a restaurant. Eating out is insane: even if your chef is hygienic in the first place, unless he's devoutly following the paper-towel hand-washing routine outlined above to the letter he may as well wipe his bum on your plate. Nonetheless, I decided to risk it. Giving in to emetophobia would be like giving in to the terrorists, yeah? End result: I lay awake for hours last night, convinced that I'd start hurling any second.
There's one chink of sunlight for us emetophobes: we hardly ever actually vomit. There are various theories as to why, and it's all a bit chicken-and-egg: either we're so naturally hardy that vomiting is a rarity (and therefore more traumatic when it does occur), or we're so psychologically averse to it, we can will ourselves to stop. In fact, if I was on Heroes, that would be my superpower. A few years ago I caught a noro-style gastric nasty that made all my friends spew like ruptured fire hydrants. I lay in bed with cramps and a fever, battling extreme nausea for four days, and somehow didn't snap. Although what was happening at the other end of my body was another story altogether. Magic powers only stretch so far. That's why Superman wears rubber knickers.
Anyway, it'll blow over soon. The media have already got new scare stories to torture us with. In the meantime, if you're reading this on a bus, in an office, or at a shared computer, and you're eating your lunch - God help you. Now wash your hands.
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Thursday, December 18, 2008
Good Old Charlie Brooker
Posted by incurable hippie at 11:42 pm
Old article, just about sums up my last few days...