Wednesday, September 19, 2007

About pandemic flu and small children's colds

Now why, on a beautiful September morning, would I spend one minute thinking of pandemic illness of any type? Hang with me.

The little girls are staying with us this week while their parents are on vacation, and the bubbly chaos they bring is fun and exhausting. Their chatter is often hilarious and their need to snack voracious.

The bad news is, they both have colds. The runny nose-and-coughing kind of colds that kids seem to get one after another all winter long, from the time they are babies to the time they are about, oh, age 10. (The age 10 number is not pulled from thin air, but rather from my vast experience of raising two children who had one cold after another, all winter long, until the aforementioned age.)

So we are spending the week feeding and playing and wiping the runny noses and giving out medicine.

The colds they have are not an influenza pandemic, and that's not why I was thinking of one.

Our book club met last night, our first meeting of our season, and I was the presenter of our first book--The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry. I also pitched this book to the group last spring, when we were choosing books for the year, and the ladies agreed that it would be a good addition. A lively discussion ensued.

The flu pandemic of 1918-1919 was terrible: it struck young people the worst, it killed off the soldiers who had just survived The Great War, it killed quickly, usually of pneumonia, and it spread quickly around the world.

Could a pandemic happen in the 21st century? The reading I did suggests it could, but the effects of the flu might be very different--we understand better about the way disease spreads, we have better medical care, and hopefully, we learned something from past pandemics. We'll see, I guess. I keep washing my hands.

I'm expecting a small epidemic at my house. Those little runny noses are just leaking viruses. Just how immune is a 51-year-old to the miasma of viruses being spewed about? Stay tuned.

So, how about you? How's your immune system holding up?

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