Saturday, 12 December 2009
When there was a lot of loud talk about the flu, I always thought: well, I live in a healthy way, on an island, out in the country, what can happen to me in the middle of nature? So I am pretty disappointed that being healthy is no guarantee against catching the flu - or a cold.
I do not know exactly what I have caught. I keep on sneezing and sniffing. No sore throat, no fever, no pain in the lungs, just a feeling that my head is a separate part of my body because only there does the angry flu seem to rage.
I feel like Laura Johnston, the twelve year old American girl that was in the news in November because she sneezed about a twelve thousand times a day! I should count my sneezing, although I think that even on a bad day I sneeze only about one thousand times, so I won’t be part of the forty people in the world who have Laura’s rare sneezing disease.
At the pharmacy they say it’s an allergy. Because when you sneeze without coughing it can’t be anything else. This pharmacist probably never heard of Laura, otherwise he would have put the media on to me. In Greece you can get lots of medicines without a doctor’s prescription, even antibiotics. So, when I am feeling ill I usually sort out what to take with the pharmacist. This time he just gave me some anti-allergy pills to stop the sneezing. Besides these pills I used the steam method to try and bring out the cold in my head, and drank litres of fresh orange juice, and just to be sure I even took extra vitamin C tablets. But it did not get better, so I had to call a doctor who diagnosed a bad cold but no flu. Throat, lungs, heart and muscles were all right, I just had to sit it out.
When you tell somebody on the island that you are ill (arostos), they understand because half the village is always ill. “It prevails”, they say, like it is quite normal. Even in the middle of the summer when you tell them you are not feeling well people say “it prevails”. Then they start naming all the other persons who are ill and patiently listening to that list, it does indeed seem like half of the village is in bed and indisposed; but there is a clear difference between a summer and a winter flu. With summer flu your stomach tends to empty very quickly and it may only last a day. With a winter flu your nose runs, and you have a cough and a sore throat which can take ages to get better. This flu can come even to the healthy island life.
Now that everybody has been scared by the prospect of getting Mexican flu (also known as “swine flu”), only the media dare to name it. If you tell someone you have the flu they now tend to take a step away. Now there is talk of getting vaccinated, but many people are hesitating: will it help, or is it too late for it to work this winter?
It’s certain that Mexican flu has reached this island. The first cases were actually in summer. Now many schools are closed, especially around Mytilini, where most people live, as well as in the east of the island and in Kaloni, Perama and Illios.
I heard somebody saying that I probably had a ‘variant’ of the Mexican flu. “That prevails”, they say, meaning the variant. Although nobody dares to name this Frightening Flu, they think that anything flu-like is a new variant of the Horrible Flu. Experts say that the variant that has appeared on the island is very mild and they tell healthy people not to vaccinate.
And so this flu epidemic continues to simmer away and everybody knows at least ten people who are ill with it, although they never name it - as if saying the name will mean you catch it! Only very few victims have to go to hospital - but nobody will mention that either.
The one advantage of the epidemic is that not many people are leaving the island - they are afraid of catching a dose of flu elsewhere. Other people see this because of the economic crisis. Compared to last winter there are 70% fewer flights out booked so far. So there are bargains on ticket prices to Athens and abroad. But where would you travel if you already have the flu... And why leave an island that is full of oranges and lemons - vitamin C hanging from the trees!
(With thanks to Tony Barrell)
@ Smitaki 2009