“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Monday, May 04, 2009

H1N1 in New Zealand

(Picture above taken from Terrierman's Daily Dose)
News of the "swine flu" broke in Auckland last Sunday, with wild speculation about some sick students who recently returned from Mexico. Monday morning, I rode the train into the city to work, as usual. The train was more packed than usual. As I stood up to get off at my stop, I heard a woman standing in front of me yell "oh my god!" but the rest of the train was quiet. Then someone said "did he get you too?" The crowd isn't moving now, so I push through and see what initially apears to be spilled coffee on the carpet of the train. I get off the train, and realize this isn't coffee. There's a man standing against the fence with drool hanging out of his mouth, red nose, pale face, vomit down his shirt, pants and shoes. I think, "oh that poor guy, he looks terrible" and at the same time "what a dumbass! He could have infected the whole train! Even if he's just hung over, why the hell is he getting on a train packed with people when he's feeling bad?"
This is the day that I go to get my flu vaccination from the hospital, which is free for employees. Oddly, this is not a requirement for hospital staff. Fortunately, I have been feeling fine so far. The hospital's response to the new flu has been to tell staff that if you are feeling unwell, but have not been to Mexico recently, follow the usual protocols- stay home, cover your mouth when you sneeze, throw your snotty tissues in the trash, and wash your hands a lot (that goes for everyone, even if you're feeling well).
As it turned out, there were three of the 11 students who were infected with H1N1, but none were reported to have more than mild symptoms. I really appreciate that New Zealanders are willing and eager world travellers, and that New Zealand is such an excellent tourist destination, but at the same time, this does put our relatively small population at risk. I suppose if this flu were actually a real threat, Darin and I could pack up our pets and flee to our land in Maungaturoto until it was safe to return to the cities. We were up there this past weekend and found that the recent rains had filled our new water tank completely. We also saw a large group of turkeys cruising around, so we would have water and meat. Hey, can you blame me for being paranoid? The train is a serious risk these days, with so many people in close proximity.
Sometimes I have to agree with Sartre: "Hell is other people".
This idea was repeated in a book about searching for the perfect meal, in The Man Who Ate The World by Jay Rayner. This book is relatively new, and was very entertaining. The title and subject is very similar to a 1997 book, The Man Who Ate Everything. The latter is a bit more intellectual, both practical and philosophical, and a lot less shallow. Both entertaining, but I'm only a few chapters into the ...Everything book. My most recent food fun has been to make chicken apple sausage from Bruce Adells Complete Sausage Book. We used a free range chicken from the grocery and one of our backyard chickens who turned out to be a rooster. It is delicious! We'll have to make it again soon, because there's another rooster out there (at least one). Sad though, because they have names: 5 Toe and Elvis. I guess their name will soon change to Sausage.