Infection freakin' in Swine Flu America

Earlier today, I posted a blog about an NPR appearance by Centennial's Dr. Michael Kurtz, during which he talked about the thirty-to-fifty likely swine flu victims who are coming into his office every day. His account made his waiting room sound like "a petri dish," I wrote. Then, a few hours later, I accompanied my wife to the office of another physician, this one in Lakewood -- and while I waited for her to undergo a minor, in-office procedure, I saw my description come to horrifying life.

A sign at the front desk advised anyone who was sneezing or coughing to request a surgical mask, but no one in the lobby was wearing one -- and in a couple of cases, it would have been a damn fine idea. A woman came in with two children, one around three, the other about four -- and the younger one energetically toddled around the room spewing particulates from his mouth and nose in every direction. As he did so, the woman talked with a companion about the coughs, which she said were prompted by an asthmatic condition, not a virus. However, the glistening mucous oozing out of his nostrils looked plenty infectious to me. At one point, the kid tossed a magazine into the lap of another patient, who showed admirable restraint by not screaming in terror and sprinting from the building. Meanwhile, a man who looked somewhere between eighty and a millennium was hacking phlegmatically, and not into his elbow. The woman sitting next to him must have been related, because if she hadn't been, she probably would have been cleaning herself off with a squeegee -- and then attacking him with it.

We've all experienced similar things during previous visits to medical offices. But with the swine flu running rampant in this area, every sniffle is magnified. Next time I have to visit a doc, I'm wearing a body condom and bring a gallon of Purell.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts