The Lurg

The Lurg
The Lurg. This lady does not have the lurg. She looks amazingly healthy so this is a set up. If she had the lurg you would not instantly and would contemplate being elsewhere as soon as possible.

The invading army expanded in both directions from their beachhead. Soon they were almost everywhere, even invading the outlying areas. The resistance had little time to prepare, but soon they were building up their forces. The battle raged everywhere, noticeably raising the temperature.

Yes, I have the lurgy. It started a week ago with a sore throat and progressed to a crippling cough. Soon I was aching all over and doing anything at was getting very hard. My muscles ached from coughing and my back hurt, probably as a secondary result of the coughing.

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases
Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

I felt hot and sweaty, and got an appointment with the doctor. She told me that it was a “viral infection” and that I had to “last it out”. I didn’t have bronchitis or pneumonia fortunately, so I came out of the medical centre with no prescription. That’s fine by me. Antibiotics wouldn’t help with a viral infection and most cold “remedies” are hokum.

What I had was a bit more than a cold though, so over the next few days I was mostly collapsed in bed, sometimes listening to radio or playing games on the tablet. Did I feel sorry for myself? Not really, but my mood was sombre. Even in the depths of depression I haven’t felt sorry for myself and I rarely do. It seems a pointless way to feel, and depression, for me, is colouring of the world as grey (but see below), not a personal attack by the Universe.

Depression
Depression means many things. I was searching for an image related to the mental condition but came up with the meteorologic phenomenon instead.

The thing about this particular “viral infection” is that it has left me feeling weak and tired 24 hours a day. Sleep has not been easy as I wake up sweating and coughing several times a night, once I drop off. It hasn’t been too good for my wife who has been disturbed by my nocturnal coughing spells.

Only once, fortunately, was I woken by the shivers. I hate the shivers. I felt reasonably warm in bed but my body decided it wasn’t. I struggled against the shivers for a while then snaked an arm out to grab a sweater. Fighting the weakness and the shakes I managed to pull the sweater on and still the shivers without getting out bed, then relaxed into the warmth. Of course I was soaking in sweat when I woke up. Yuck!

Warm bed
Warm bed

A deep cold or maybe flu like this makes things hard to do. There’s a general feeling of weakness, but I think that’s mostly a mental thing. I had to swing an axe at some blocks of wood out of necessity (It’s winter here) but I was able to do it, albeit with lengthy pauses to cough my lungs out, Muscles complain if you ask them to do work, but with “viral infection” they do that anyway.

Maybe the system is marshalling all resources to attack the invader and resents having to let resources go to other ends. Speaking of resources, food and drink lose their savour with a cold like this. Solid food tastes of nothing much and tea and coffee taste strange. (I don’t actually drink coffee so I’m extrapolating here!) I don’t know why this happens, but it’s like half of your taste buds are MIA and the others only have time to register “food of some sort”.

Tastebuds
Tastebuds

Also you eat at strange times. Struggling out of bed, it is often quite late in the morning before breakfast happens. Since my usual breakfast is pretty bland (oat biscuits and milk) you can imagine what it tastes like… Well pulped cardboard would probably have more flavour.

Lunch time has been straying into the early afternoon. Whatever is for lunch, it is probably quick and easy. Tinned soup, something on toast, or similar. Not that I can taste what it is, of course. I made scrambled eggs today (whisk eggs, pinch of salt, milk if wanted, pepper if wanted) and I had eaten half of it before I realised that I had forgotten the pinch of salt In normal times I would have spotted that in the first mouthful, even though I only use a little.

Scrambled eggs
Scrambled eggs

The really annoying thing, though, over the course of the battle for my body is that my brain functions have been “softened”. I think that’s the best word. Just like a landscape is softened by a veil of rain, my brain feels a little fuzzy, like an out of focus photograph. The sharp edges are still there, though it is more of an effort to utilise them.

Puzzles, for example, are doable, but with more effort than usual. I quite like Sudoku puzzles and can complete them at my usual level, but I’m tired afterwards. Even Solitaire (what else can you do when you can’t go out, when you’ve completed all the Sudoku puzzles available to you) can seem like a pretty daunting proposition.

Sudoku
Sudoku

I was going to mention colour, wasn’t I? Colour leaches from the world much like it does when depression hits. You look at something and the colours are there – you can notice to a block of red in something for instance – but somehow colour doesn’t figure much in the composite image that your eyes report to your, or is dropped as irrelevant by your brain. Something in the visual presentation of your vision system appears to dial down the colours.

It doesn’t go completely monochrome (though deep depression does, occasionally, for me). It’s just that colour seems to lose significance. It’s AS IF everything was grey and white until you actually look specifically at something. Still it is not as unpleasant as those time when depression blasts everything with light, where everything feels metallic, there is a metallic taste in the mouth. Total sensory overload that won’t stop. I call it the “neon world”.

Grey Skies - Belgium
Grey Skies – Belgium

I’m approaching the end of this post, which shows that I must be much improved from how I was before! Yeah! Yeah, the defenders of my internal galaxy! I still have the nose runs and still have the coughs, but the aches have retreated to only the coughing muscles. I think that I’m going to survive. Well, I always knew I would really, but it’s hard to maintain the positiveness when you’ve been coughing for 10 minutes and can’t see the end.

White blood cells
White blood cells

Sickness

Flu
Flu (Photo credit: IK’s World Trip)

Today I am going to reflect on sickness. As an aside, my aim was to write something every Friday and post it here, but lately the deadlines have been slipping past and I didn’t complete the previous post until Tuesday. This Friday I was still suffering from the bug that I caught, and motivation and energy levels were low, so I didn’t start this until Sunday. The effects hang on, but if I don’t start now, I may not get a post done at all! So here goes.

Last Monday I was feeling like I was coming down with something but struggled into work anyway. A couple of hours into the day it was obvious to me that I was rapidly getting worse so I headed home and put my feet up. I fully expected to be over the worst by Wednesday but on Wednesday morning it was obvious that I wasn’t recovered enough to return to work, so I visited the doctor who confirmed a flu-type illness.

Visit of the Doctor
Visit of the Doctor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The doctor didn’t prescribe anything apart from rest, which suited me. I must write a post about over prescribing of medicines by doctors as I see it sometime. So the rest of the week was taken up by lying around, drinking copious tea, coughing and aching. I believe that one of the symptoms of the sickness I am still suffering from is to make everything ache. Of course, the constant coughing results in aching of the chest muscles, but my arms and legs and head also ached. Not nice.

Add on on shivering fits and sweats and it all makes for a fun week. Did I mention a sore throat?

English: Hamlin's Wizard Oil, the greatest fam...
English: Hamlin’s Wizard Oil, the greatest family remedy for rheumatism, neuralgia, toothache, headache, diphtheria, sore throat, lame back, sprains, bruises, corns, cramps, colic, diarrhœa and all pain and inflammation. Sold by all druggists. Advertising for turn-of-the-century miracle cure, chromolithograph by Hughes Lithographers, Chicago. Undated, estimated to be from around 1890. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that I am suffering the attack of a flu virus, but obviously not a strain that was targeted by the flu jab that I had. Since it was presumably a virus there is no treatment possible, apart from alleviating the symptoms.

Speaking anthropomorphically, it is in the virus’ interest to not reduce the functional level of the organism that it attacks to the level where it quickly dies and so cannot pass on the infection, so viruses tend to merely make you sick. So infected organisms remain more or less functional. They still eat, drink, and interrelate with others of their type, which allows the virus to spread by coughs and sneezes which fill the air with the virus which can then be inhaled by well individuals.

virus
virus (Photo credit: twenty_questions)

It is good strategy for the virus to irritate the nose and the the chest, increasing the possibility of the virus being passed on. I say “strategy”, though of course it is pure evolution in action – viruses which don’t cause you to cough and sneeze don’t get spread around so easily and so tend to die out. Of course there are other ways to spread a virus or other disease, STDs and diseases transferred by physical contact spring to mind.

When you think about it, sneezes and coughs are a pretty damn efficient way of spreading a virus. A cough or sneezes creates a mist of tiny virus-laden particles that can be inhaled or picked up from surfaces where they settle. It follows that viruses at least of this type would spread most efficiently in enclosed spaces such as homes and workplaces. A farmer could sneeze in the fields and not affect anyone, but a sneeze in a packed classroom could result in several pupils being missing in the next day or two, not to mention the teacher.

A man mid-sneeze. Original CDC caption: "...
A man mid-sneeze. Original CDC caption: “This 2009 photograph captured a sneeze in progress, revealing the plume of salivary droplets as they are expelled in a large cone-shaped array from this man’s open mouth, thereby dramatically illustrating the reason one needs to cover his/her mouth when coughing, or sneezing, in order to protect others from germ exposure.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the silly things about employment laws is that a person who takes leave from work because of sickness can be asked to provide a medical certificate, even if the employer doesn’t believe that the worker is faking the sickness. Usually there is a day or two’s grace to allow the sick person to obtain a certificate from the doctor. This usually means that the sick person has to go out into the community, sit in a waiting room which is probably a miasma of viruses, and talk to a doctor who is then subjected to the airborne virus! It’s possible that evolution will favour viruses which reach maximum infectiveness in 2 – 3 days!

The reason for the laws is to prevent people from claiming to be sick when they aren’t (known colloquially as “taking a sickie”). While this is obviously a problem it does mean that people may struggle into work when sick in order to avoid the expense of a doctor’s visit, and they may spread the virus around the workplace, resulting in more absences and more costs to the employer.

duvet day
duvet day (Photo credit: Βethan)

Viruses are amazing things, on the borders of death and life. They are simply little packets of genetic code for self-replication which utilise the organism’s own machinery against it. Of course all living organisms are packets of genetic code for self-replication, but viruses are the smallest possible, with the possible exception of things like prions. (Which, I’ve just read, don’t contain any genetic code).

The immune system of the body is triggered by viruses (which results in all the coughing and sneezing) and so the body is not defenceless. However viruses mutate quite quickly, so we have many ‘strains’ of common viruses. The common cold is, I believe, a particularly mutable virus which is probably why research into it has not gone far in combating it. The flu virus that attacked me is likely to have been a mutation of a strain of the flu virus that was targeted by the flu jab that I had.

And so the war goes on.

Comparison of mechanisms of drug resistance am...
Comparison of mechanisms of drug resistance among viruses (Photo credit: AJC1)