licking doorknobs: a big no-no.
this blog entry is being written from my bed. yesterday I tested positive for not one, but two strains of the flu: types A AND B. in spite of the fact that I diligently submitted my upper right arm for a flu shot two weeks ago, the shot only provides about 70% coverage in the face of the onslaught -- which this season is considerable. there are reportedly five strains of influenza in NZ alone, and the shot protects only against three of them.
in a community as small, interdependent and insular as mcmurdo, public health is everyone's concern. we are urged from well before we step foot onto the continent to wash our hands, use hand sanitizer, report to medical at the first sign of sickness for treatment, and so on. this season the flu has been sweeping through our ranks, decimating (or at least adversely affecting) every department from Logistics to Science Support to Station Services...and now, Area Directorate (where I work). folks have been holed up in their dorm rooms for five or six days, under pain of death (or at least a brisk scolding) if they dare emerge to so much as get their own food from the galley or check their e-mails at the computer kiosk. last night I thought I could sneak inconspicuously downstairs to return my tray and dishes to the dish window. as I was scraping leftovers into the food waste bin, I turned and saw Doc Harry, the kindly, white-haired, portly lead physician, storming his way up the stairs toward me. you're supposed to be in quarantine, young lady, he said. that means you do not leave your room.
oh, the guilt! I slunk back upstairs with my tail between my pajama'd legs.
so, I am confined to my room for the next couple of days, hacking and coughing and generally evoking lots of sympathy. friends must bring me my meals, and whatever work I want to accomplish has to be done on a loaner laptop from IT with the magic of dial-up internet (which is a privilege doled out to a few supervisors and managers so they can access their MS Outlook accounts and the network drives from their dorm rooms, and which, as you can see, I am taking full advantage of for the purpose of updating my blog). yesterday I watched movies and knitted. friends stopped by to wish me well or drop off treats. right now I'm waiting for keith and zach, two cook friends, to bring me a big pot of chicken soup that they're making on the sly in the kitchen.
the flu test itself was like medieval torture. first, the lab tech, a no-nonsense, squat middle-aged woman named sherry, swabbed the back of my throat with one of those long Q-tips, which always makes me want to yak. I came THIS close to barfing all over her no-nonsense bosom. and then -- oh the horror! it makes me want to weep just to recall it -- she took another Q-tip and shoved it all the way up each nostril and swabbed it around somewhere in my brain cavity. I swear it was like she was probing the back of my eyeballs. invasive! disgusting! painful! getting my nose pierced by a large, completely tattooed man in capitol hill was less traumatic.
but the test yields near-instant results. five minutes later, the flight surgeon walked in and pronounced me positive for -- impressively -- strains A and B. which is something, in all of sherry's years of being a lab tech, she had never seen before -- until this season at mcmurdo.
the biggest disappointment with this downturn of events is that today Ann Curry and the crew of the Today Show arrive at mcmurdo. they are in the air somewhere between NZ and here on a C-17 as I type, and are scheduled to touch down at 1357. they have been filming their adventures in NZ, which we only know from watching www.msnbc.com (we don't get NBC or any other network channel down here), and they are to be let off the plane first at the ice runway in order to film the pax emerging. they will certainly also film the arrival brief, which falls within my normal course of duties to organize and run -- but today, my co-worker melanie will have to conduct the brief, as me exhaling virus particles in a room full of people -- namely, the Dining Hall, and bigwigs such as Ms. Curry & Co. -- would certainly bode disaster. I can just see the headlines now --
Today Show's Ann Curry Sickened by Exposure to Influenza Type A and B
"I didn't realize how contagious I was," explained the McMurdo staff member who has been pinpointed as the station's Typhoid Mary, whose name is not being released. "I wanted to appear on the Today Show, even in a marginal capacity, and I recklessly endangered these high-profile, really nice visitors to our corner of Antarctica by turning a routine briefing into a festering hotbed of morbidity."
people have been emailing me from the states, wanting to know when the antarctica segments are going to air on the show. to tell you the truth, anyone back home with a TV is going to be far more in the loop than we are. I would suggest watching the show itself for details of the upcoming broadcasts, probably every day from now until the 9th when they depart for NZ. but if I get any info on this end, I will most certainly post it here as well. the current plan is for them to fly to pole on the 1st (the 31st for you all) but to be back in time to broadcast live from here on the 5th or 6th, and return to NZ on the 9th.
here's the current posting from the Today Show website:
I started feeling achy and a bit feverish this past saturday at the seasonal halloween party, where I was dressed as Rosie the Riveter and circulating amongst hundreds of other people drinking cheap NZ beer and taking pictures of each other. my costume, which I had planned and executed with razor-sharp focus, included a denim work shirt with campaign pins attached to the collar and a red-and-white nametag reading 'rosie' above the left chest pocket; brown work pants borrowed from a female carpenter; brown work boots borrowed from a friend who enjoys diving the skua bins; a black thermos lunchbox I had picked up in a value village in seattle; a red headkerchief borrowed from keith the cook; and an actual handheld riveter on loan from a friend who works in the heavy shop. rosie was a big hit. I walked around pretending to rivet people and flexing my considerable biceps, on which had been drawn with a sharpie a stylized american flag and a bald eagle.
well, back to coughing and hacking. pics coming as soon as I'm back at a computer that has a connection fast enough to upload them.