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  Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

Got Flu?
Try A Sock Full of Onions

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
Before the days of modern medicine, people relied on folk remedies. To ward off the flu, for example, you might have to wear a sock full of onions or eat a spoonful of hot chilies on a piece of pumpernickel. Today, fortunately, we can simply get a flu shot. Or can we?

It wasn't enough to learn that once again, the U.S.A. doesn't have enough flu inoculations to go around as we approach flu season, now we find that the shots, if we had them, aren't even made here. They're manufactured in other countries, better prepared countries, like Mexico, Canada and England.

What's with this? What is it about Americans and the flu? When you think about it, we so stay in the dark about this disease that we name it after everybody except ourselves. This year, the World Health Organization expects the following:

New Caledonian flu
Panama flu
Sichuan Flu
Fujia flu
Shanghai Flu
Kamamoto flu

We've had Spanish, Asian, and Hong Kong flu, but where, I ask you, is an American name in this group? What is it about us that we have to outsource even a disease? Where's the Hackensack flu or the Chattanooga flu or the Muleshoe flu?

The very name, influenza, is foreign. It's Italian. Originally, it meant "influence," and was used metaphorically for the outbreak of a particular disease. For example, "an influenza di febbre scarlattina" was an outbreak, or epidemic, of scarlet fever.

It seems intensely irresponsible to credit every other country as the genesis of our diseases and deny that we might have actually started it ourselves. Why, sometimes we even blame other species. We have the Avian, or chicken, flu, and the Swine flu. Doesn't that smack of discrimination? Doesn't that illegally exclude other creatures who might want a little publicity? Would it be politically incorrect for a caterpillar or a moose or an armadillo to take humans into court and sue for Right of Disease Name? After all, if witches in Washington can sue Halloween and win, anything's possible.

And why stop there? Why not the cell phone flu, the television flu and the laptop flu? These three diseases appear to have infected the majority of the entire world's population already, and they're not even seasonal. They're with us all the time.

According to Dr. Robert Luchi, Professor of Medicine-Geriatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, a flu inoculation, whether by needle or nose, is a vast improvement over the old folk remedy of "covering your body with lard to take away the heat of a fever."

Whatever it's called, it's now flu season, so take two onions and call your doctor.
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
October 29, 2004 Column
 
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