I’m a hugger. The touchy-feely type who wraps her arms around every last friend when we say hello and goodbye.
But now is not the time for affection. Flu season hasn’t even peaked, and we’re already in the worst outbreak since the swine flu oinked all over 2009.
So whether you’ve been vaccinated or not, I’m not here for the hugs, kisses or fist bumps. I don’t want y’all flu, cold or the adenovirus that’s going around. Runny noses, sore throats, coughing, fever and running to the toilet for a week or two? I’m already asthmatic and I don’t have the time. “Black Panther” is coming out soon.
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I walked into the office today and one of my co-workers almost coughed a lung onto his keyboard. He blamed it on the dry air. Uh-huh. Doesn’t he know our office mom — who has worked here for 30 years — has never taken more than a sick day or two, and she was out a whole week messing with the flu? Folk around here are dumping Theraflu into coffee cups as a preventative measure. I’m following suit.
I used to pick on my friend Tashie about her germaphobia and hand sanitizer. I am now one of her kind.
Last week, I skipped out on yoga with one of my closest friends because she didn’t feel good. You transmit the flu by small droplets. Ewww. Hot yoga would be a flu incubator.
Y’all are out here sick in public. Stay home. We can’t laugh too close together. I can’t even steal a fry off a friend’s plate without cringing at the possibilities. I missed out on hugging one of my bestie’s newborns because the baby had a cold. She’s cute, even with a snotty nose, but nope. You’re contagious a day before you even feel sick. Three or four after. I don’t want it.
So sanitize your affection. I’m like a newborn baby. Wash your hands before you touch me. I have never smelled more like anti-bacterial soap. I might invest in a mask. Rihanna made it a fashion statement at Coachella.
I’m not overreacting. Collectively, our immune systems are compromised. The New York Times says we’re ill-prepared not just for this flu season but for the very likely possibility of a pandemic in the future. Our vaccines are based on 1940s research. Basically, we’ve brought a knife to a gun fight.
Our best hope is the development of a universal vaccine that attacks all Influenza A strains and lasts longer than a season. The National Institutes of Health publicly declared developing a vaccine a priority, but experts say it’s going to take more than the $32 million budgeted for the research.
We have to upgrade the studies and increase funding. Every year since 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu has caused “between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths.” We need better meds and a vaccine that prevents more than a few strains when there’s an entire gang of ’em coming for us.
Even dogs are are coming down with something like our flu, complete with a cough. Over the last 45 days, six dogs in California were diagnosed with canine influenza H3N2 virus. So now I not only have to be vigilant about people I’m coming into contact with, I have to keep Peppermint Patty from playing with every Fido, Spot and Benji who comes sniffing around.
So apologies to my real friends, but for the rest of flu season: No dap. No cheek kisses. No sips of my drink. No bites of my food. Drake rapped about no new friends. I’m saying no new germs.
Jeneé Osterheldt is a Kansas City culture columnist, @jeneeinkc