In typical Suite Story form, I started this blog post two weeks ago and gave up, because I thought writing about my irrational fear of the norovirus and the even more irrational fear that I am going to contract said virus in February, would be really boring. Probably it will be. But after failing to conquer this fear, it occurs to me I have issues.
Emetophobia – the fear of vomiting – is the fifth most common phobia according to Scott Stossel, author of the book My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. Scott says he hasn’t vomited since 1977. That’s an impressive streak. I had my own 15 year streak going, and that lasted until about 20 hours into labor. Then five months later, in February of 2012, the whole family was struck with the norovirus and a new fear was born.
Even if you’re lucky enough to have never had norovirus, you’ve probably heard it mentioned on the news before. It is extremely contagious, and every year it sickens at least one entire cruise ship. The passengers must give up their dreams of a sunning themselves on the beach to endure what I imagine is a slow, nauseating and foul-smelling return trip home. The ship is then scrubbed stem to stern with a bleach solution because bleach is the only thing* that kills this nasty little bug.
If you happen to be stricken with norovirus, the symptoms, which mimic food-poisoning, are short-lived. You’ll suffer about three days – but those are probably the most miserable days you’ll have all year. But wait – that’s not all. You’ll continue spreading germs and infecting friends long after you feel better. Unlike a cold, in which you cease to be contagious as your symptoms dissipate, norovirus will cling to you and everything you touch for three whole weeks. Talk about your axis of evil.
I recently read this excellent article on Slate.com explaining why this bug should instill more fear in you than a CDC certified outbreak of swine flu, or the release of a new Miley Cyrus album. Slate gives the scientific specifics of why the virus spreads so easily and is so difficult to kill. I wish I had taken my fears and turned them into something useful by writing this article, but I didn’t. Instead, I’m writing this sad blog post because I can’t leave my house until I turn the page on the calendar.
The unfortunate thing about having mildly crazy fears like emetophobia, or the as-yet-unclassified “fear of February,” is that no one really cares. The fact that I try to force myself into a 28-day quarantine isn’t something that requires an intervention. In fact, sometimes I think it’s a great idea because we save money by dining in and shopping less.
After reading the Slate article, I thought well hell, there is no avoiding the unavoidable. I might as well live my February life as any other month. If I’m going to get sick, I am going to get sick. There’s a certain logic in that, but there is also a certain, perhaps better, logic in avoiding large, indoor crowds of people who may be exhaling germs in my general direction. Still I did well. I bucked up. I ran errands. I went shopping. I attended co-op preschool with my daughter as if nothing was wrong. And then a whopping three times I became convinced I had contracted the norovirus, and let’s just say those weren’t the most well-rested nights.
So screw it, I say. What’s the point in going out and hoping I won’t get sick, if that’s going to scare me into actually being sick? I know at some point I will get sick. I will get the norovirus again. I have a child. This child will eventually go out into the world where other height-challenged persons will breathe germs on her which she will bring home to me. It probably won’t be in February, and then I’ll have a whole new month to fear. But for now, all I can do is what I can do, and all I can do is quarantine myself. Also, I can stay the hell away from any cruise ships.
*If you or anyone in your house has had norovirus, you can also spray Lysol Brand iii on anything you can’t bleach. Has to be Brand iii though, other Lysols aren’t approved for killing norovirus (a strain of rotavirus, which is how it is labeled on the container.) As a nice little bonus, this stuff smells pretty good so I like to use it year round, just in case.