Thursday, February 5, 2009

Patient Zero

In epidemiology, the term Patient Zero is sometimes used to refer to the initial patient in an epidemiological investigation. It is more formally known as the Index Case, but whatever the name is, it refers to "the guy that started it all".

We're still trying to piece together who exactly Patient Zero is here at Casa del Jeopardy. Suffice it to say, things are bad. Yours truly had the one-two punch of Influenza followed by rapid onset norovirus, which made for an uncomfortable 2 weeks. And we're not out of the woods yet. Lacking a BSL-4 facility at home complete with space suits and a laminar flow hood, restricting contagion among the nuclear family was all but impossible. The best we could do was to isolate as much as possible and keep our contact with the outside world to a bare minimum. We were going to spend some time with our adopted midshipman (is midshipperson even a word?) last weekend, but the thought of being responsible for infecting the entire Brigade at the Trade School brought forth visions of a very distressed LTjg being court-martialed for violating articles 93, 133, and 134 of the UCMJ. Good times.

The two upsides?
1) There are numerous over-the-counter medications that will take away the symptoms and knock you out for the duration.
2) The Wife was so extraordinarily helpful that she deserves some sort of award from the Public Health Service.

Norovirus is uncomfortable but not very threatening, which is a relief. I'll spare you the details, but I could probably tell you how many 1 inch tiles there are in each of the bathrooms in the house.

The flu just sucks all that and more. It made my skin hurt and made me sleep about 18 hours a day.

Viruses are a fascinating bunch of things. They are both very simple and deceptively complex in their makeup, replication and life cycle. They make for fascinating detective stories, both historical and contemporary. A sort of a whodunit with the smallest of perps. Of course it's not their fault. That's what they're designed to do. You don't blame the dog for being a dog, or something like that.

With most viruses, your immune system builds up an immunity after the first infection (that's why vaccines work and you don't usually get chicken pox more than once), but the good folks at the CDC had this distressing little tidbit about mr. norovirus:

"It appears that immunity may be strain-specific and lasts only a few months; therefore, given the genetic variability of noroviruses, individuals are likely to be repeatedly infected throughout their lifetimes."

So I've got that going for me. Which is nice. I may have to get more magazine subscriptions.

1 comment:

lilli said...

CDC:"Are noroviruses contagious?
Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person. Both stool and vomit are infectious. Particular care should be taken with young children in diapers who may have diarrhea.How long are people contagious?

People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks after recovery. Therefore, it is particularly important for people to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from norovirus illness.

Sorry you can't come for the weekend. Sure will miss you. Bummer. Yall have fun now.