Thursday, 17 January 2008

Clear and Present Danger

I have a confession to make: I am heartfelt, downright, over-the-top, curl-up-into-a-sobbing-heap scared of throwing up. Seriously. Have been since I was a young 'un. It is an official phobia, known as emetophobia, the fear of vomiting. The thought of being sick is enough to set my heart racing and my palms sweating; if anyone over the age of 2 is looking a bit green, I won't be hanging around to find out how things progress. I might drop them a little text from the far side of the city, once I've myself there, to check they're doing OK, but I will not stay in the room.

And so the present threat of the norovirus epidemic sweeping the country is like a form of torture. Every newspaper story or columnist comment is like a few million volts of electricity to the brain, and all colleagues are being closely watched for signs of infection. Given that our office is pretty much a pig sty with computers, the risk of cross-contamination is high; given also that somewhere in the back of my mind I'm a little bit worried that I'll catch it just by reading about it on the web, my hands are being washed almost to the verge of extinction every few minutes, and I'm practising holding my breath until I can last an entire day without taking in air.

They say the worst thing you can do is rub your eyes; naturally, being told this has made my eyes ragingly itchy (an obvious reason to panic - is this how it starts? Is it a symptom? The first stop on the route to 4 days crying on the bathroom floor? Excuse me for a moment while I check out Google... OK, no, we're fine, back to the discussion). Door handles and telephones are a source of germs and should be avoided, or operated only with elbows.

But then yesterday I read that it might not really be an epidemic after all, and that the reason there are more cases this year might just be because they've just brought in better tests, and because people are reporting it more, on the grounds that it was on the 'telly and therefore having it makes them famous. I think there may be some dodgy maths going on here, but since writing about it makes me feel queasy, I'll have to leave that post to someone else.

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