Of Swine and Spam

Published on: 1/12/2013

I should have figured-out earlier that there might be a connection but it didn't sink-in until I started feeling a whole lot better three days after I started feeling like crud.

The day following the Mighty Packers win over the titleless Vikings in the NFC Conference playoff it started with a tickle in my throat.  I thought nothing of it - chalking it up to a typical post game reaction to shouting and yelling in 28 degree cold.  Besides I felt fine otherwise.  Scratchy throat.  Big deal.

Monday morning not so much.  My day dawned early and restlessly in the predawn hours with sinus and head congestion and a hacking dry cough accompanied by a low grade fever.  I felt like someone had worked me over with a rubber hose.  Or a baseball bat.  Or threw me under the bus.  You pick.

Self-diagnosing the symptoms I was convinced that all signs pointed to the flu.  I'm thinking - How could this be possible?  I don't get the flu.  

It's a long story - but for a number of years the Blood Center of Wisconsin has conducted a longitudinal study of individuals with a robust immunity to the influenza virus.  I'm one of the lab rats.  So for me the flu isn't supposed to happen.  In fact I've never even gotten a flu shot.  Driving home from up north Jill dropped one miserable bag of robust t-cells at the walk-in clinic where everyone in the waiting room and everyone working there had donned masks.  It was a costume ball of anonymous healthcare professionals triaging a masked posse of hacking and wheezing individuals.  The doc summed it-up in short order:  Mr. Gaertner your participation in the blood study is fascinating but you are presenting all of the classic symptoms of influenza.  There's a great deal of this going around but just to make sure we're going to take some swabs for the lab to verify it.  You should hear from us tomorrow.

Doc.  Howabout you start me on Tamiflu?  (Cough...sniff)  The doctor on television said that everyone should ask for Tamiflu at the earliest sign of symptoms.  (Sniff, sniff, haaack)

(I'm thinking - I don't even know who the heck I'm talking to.  I'll never recognize this guy if I ever see him again.  Everyone is hiding behind a mask).

Nope.  No Tamiflu for you.  You're not high risk.  It will only shorten your symptoms by a day at best and besides we're learning that broad use of Tamiflu antiviral can lead to resistant strains of the influenza virus.  Ride it out big fella.  Bed rest, lots of fluids, acetaminophen for the aches and fever.  You cannot return to work until your symptoms subside and your temperature is normal for 24 hours.  Call us if you're not better in five days.  I returned home, crawled into bed and slept for 18 hours.

Checking my email Tuesday afternoon - there it was.  Positive for Influenza A (H3N2).  I went back to bed and slept until Wednesday.

After gallons of Gatorade and a fistful of acetaminophen - by Thursday I was perky enough to get up by 7 AM, feed the dogs, grapple a bulging in-box of email, take a brief nap at noon and begin to not be so cranky.  Tickle in the throat but no aches or pains.  Slightly hungry too.

Friday started as a small step back and finished with a big step forward.  By the end of the day a made a perch fish fry for Jill and I.

I also did some further web research about the seasonal variant of Influenza A.  The H3N2 strain hasn't been common until this winter.  It is also known as Swine Flu and last made a big impression on everyone the winter of 2003-04.  It is also known as Fujian Flu.  I'm thinking - Fujian.  Fujian. Fujian.  Why is that ringing a bell?  Aha!

Fujian Provincial Network of Unicom.  From whence all the spam around here ostensibly originates.  Swine flu=>Fujian flu=>swine=>pigs=>ham=>spam=>Fujian Province.  Like pieces to a puzzle it all fits!

Friendship founded on business is better than business founded on friendship. Thanks!

Thanks for nothing.  Next year I'm getting a flu shot.  

Learn more about seasonal variant influenza here.