In my book The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle, the initial symptoms of the beginning of the end were distinctly flu-like. So, is there anything that could have been done to reduce the high rate of infection on that final day of civilisation? The initial contagion may or may not have been airborne (no spoilers here!) but if it’s like a cold, perhaps taking a cold remedy advertised on the telly before going to work might have made a difference, after all they are touted as wonder cures that get you back into the office and returned to your productive little worker ant status in no time at all.
Or would they?
A recent report that came out of McMasters University in Ontario, Canada, claims something different.
Once upon a time, if you had a cold and went into work your co-workers avoided you – like the plague. And this was a good thing because you were a pariah to them and therefore you had less opportunity to spread the disease, hence it went away more quickly. Have you been on a train in recent years in winter? It’s like the whole population of your carriage is diseased and quite happy to give it to you. That’s because the moment the symptoms were felt they all popped pills or swallowed powders that made them feel relatively normal and so they climbed aboard the commuter express to hell. So what’s the problem? They can take all the ‘remedies’ they like but two things are fact. The first is that there is no remedy to the common cold, and second, you need a fever temperature in your body to kick off your resistance and ability to kill the infection.
Extrapolating from these two points you will realise something rather frightening. One point is that if these ‘remedies’ lower your body temperature to suppress the fever symptoms your resistance and fight-back capability is compromised, making the disease stay with you longer. Another point is that if you aren’t fighting the disease properly it is multiplying in your blood and saliva. Each time you sneeze, cough or touch a door handle (after all you will be blowing and wiping your nose a lot) you will be spreading a more concentrated population of the little blighters thus increasing the chances of someone else succumbing to your contagion.
This makes obvious three facts of modern day work forces:
- Management believes (or chooses to believe) the clap-trap of the pharmaceutical companies that you will be back and functional minutes after taking the ‘remedy’
- Your selfishness at returning to work is approved of, with official sanction, although I suspect your co-workers still resent your presence because non-management always sees the truth
- This explains why commuter transport is so rife with infection these days. With a cold, you may feel better on legal drugs but you are the worst kind of Petri dish there is – you move around, you breathe, you sneeze and transmit your bug. Thanks!
So what’s the resolution to the problem? And will it help stave off an apocalyptic infection?
Long before pharmaceutical companies decided that all things palliative were also cures, mothers used to feed their sick loved ones chicken broth. For some reason this was – and still is – a good thing. So is rest. The body needs uninterrupted time to recover and fight off disease. If a drug hides the symptoms it isn’t doing us a favour, in fact quite the opposite. Let the fever stay with us (within reason of course), allow it to trigger our defences so we recover quickly and don’t pass our contagion around the office.
I am lucky; for the most part I work from home and had the chance recently to practice what I am preaching in this blog. Normally a cold would stay with me for a week or two easily (how many times have you hear people say that colds are getting worse these days?). This one began as normal and then I decided to rest for the day, eat chicken broth and watch telly. Two days later there was no sign of the cold. It worked. Those smug cynics among you that are thinking that it was only a small cold infection are in fact right. Because I chose to rest and look after myself, the cold came and went as a small one. Case closed. You have to remember that the cemetery is full of indispensable people!
Now, back on point. If an apocalyptic disease came upon us would we recognise it in time for us to police ourselves by staying home and remaining isolated or will the pharmaceutical companies be the death of us?
Zombie books by David K Roberts:
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle – Cabin Fever (Sequel)
Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle