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Blackwood: Flu has some folks running scared

POSTED: May 5, 2009 11:55 p.m.

I remember back in 1976 and the government thought there was going to be an outbreak of swine flu.

We went to a gym somewhere and got a shot for the flu. I remember it because the nurse inoculated me with some kind of electric shot gizmo. Bear in mind, it has been 33 years, but my recollection is that the electric shooter didn’t make the shot feel any better than if they had pulled out a syringe and plunger.

I don’t particularly like shots. The worst one I ever had was when I was in my 20s. I had a really bad cold and went back home to the doctor. He decided I needed a shot and as it turned out a girl I knew from high school was now a nurse.

I was busy rolling up my sleeve when she informed me that this wasn’t administered in the arm. The humiliation of having to drop your trousers in front of an attractive girl from high school is something I hope I never experience again.

Every year, the experts start predicting what kind of flu is going to show up in our neck of the woods. They’ve predicted everything from Hong Kong flu to bird flu and sometimes they’re right.

There was an outbreak of what they think was swine flu in 1918 that lasted for a year and a half and killed half a million Americans and an estimated 50 million worldwide.

We thought there was going to be another big outbreak in 1976 and it never happened. I hope I’m right when I say that it looks that way now.

One thing we didn’t have in 1976 was 24-hour-a-day news, the Internet and doctors turned TV reporters.

We’ve turned this whole thing into a bit of hysteria. There have been college graduations where the graduates did not shake hands with the person who presented them with their diploma. That’s a bit much.

I was riding in an elevator the other day and one of the passengers had a slight cough. When the door opened, folks got off like they had heard somebody yell "fire."

When I go to church, I might easily shake hands with 25 or 50 people. When I get to where I’m going, I calmly go and wash my hands.

I used to work with a nurse named Carolyn Knopp, who still lives around here. She helped educate folks about keeping down the spread of disease and infection by simply washing their hands.

I remember her oft-repeated advice to wash your hands with warm soapy water while singing "Yankee Doodle" in your mind. If you get to the end and you’re still washing your hands, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten rid of most of the stuff you need to get rid of.

She got to me, because I hear her admonition right before I begin mentally begin singing "Yankee Doodle."

So, in the final words of the song, "Mind the music and your step and with the girls be handy."

Unless it’s one from high school and she wants to give you a shot in the rear.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 770-718-3423.



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