Saturday, May 16, 2009

It was only a matter of time

Every day, the reporter makes his round of calls to police stations across the region to learn what damage its citizens have inflicted upon one another overnight.

Since the discovery of the mysterious influenza that is creeping across the planet and infecting humans like an invisible ghost, the daily calls of the reporter have been amended to include public health officials in Saratoga and Warren and Washington counties, as well as the agencies keeping a watchful eye over the movement of the virus throughout the state.

We have gotten to know each other on a first-name basis. Soon, we will be having dinner parties together. That is, if we survive.

"The virus is infecting people and spreading from person-to-person, sparking a growing outbreak of illness," says the Centers for Disease Control, in press releases that read like they were scripted by someone who grew up watching too many Vincent Price movies.

"The CDC anticipates that there will be more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths." Nice.

Reassuringly, the CDC is up on technology, posting updates regularly on Twitter so now anyone in the country can share the quality of their sneeze in real time, provided it is done in 140 characters or fewer.

"With H1N1, you have flulike symptoms," said the voice on the other end of the line during a daily round of calls. The voice was infectious, all right. Immediately, I felt a tightening in my chest, the way it does when it tries to suppress a cough.

"Flulike symptoms," said another voice on the line, who was on the list of daily calls.

My throat felt scratchy. My nose began to itch. And I felt the urge to sneeze.

I put my hand to my face and felt the skin on my cheek begin to roast. Now, there was no doubt.

I read somewhere that the government had squirreled away a stockpile of anti-flu drugs that could save 11 million people, but now, blaring with fever as I was, I couldn't remember where I had read it and the only thing that kept running through my head was the medical community's ultimate fear that the virus would mutate into something even more severe as it moved across the heartland and infected people around the planet.

Sometimes, the reality of a situation appears to you in a way that is clear as the nose on your face. In this case, a runny nose at that. And when that reality dawns, when there is nothing else that can be done, you sit at the keyboard, stare deep into the abyss of the computer screen, and wait to die.

Reporting from Saratoga Springs. Over. And out.

Post-Star Saratoga Bureau writer Thomas Dimopoulos can be reached at

Labels: ,