Greetings from my cave.
It’s nice and warm in here, if a bit confining. I have all I need, at least for the moment—food, drink, entertainment, husband, cats. I’m good in here until I’m forced to take out the garbage—and forage for cat food.
Outside, the third snow of this winter of our discontent covers the slopes of the mountain. It’s been well below freezing for more than a week (and don’t even ask about the wind chill factor), so the few inches that fell on Tuesday night haven’t yet begun to melt in the thin sunlight. This kind of winter wonderland would be situation normal in Wisconsin or Michigan or Maine. But here in North Carolina, well below the Mason-Dixon line, we just aren’t used to slogging through the snow to get to our ice-encrusted vehicles, or driving over the snowpack to reach the grocery store.
In the south, as the rest of you probably know from watching the nightly TV news, we have two options when the winter weather turns bad: hunker down in our caves and wait until it warms up (my choice), or take our lives in our hands out on the slippery roads with our fellow citizens who don’t know how to drive in these conditions, resulting in massive pileups in three inches of snow. Even NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wrecked his car in North Carolina this week, in less snow than the residents of Montana see come down in an hour. The story was he was stopping to help someone else who had slid off the highway. No good deed goes unpunished.
But the weather is not the only reason to stay inside until spring. According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, this year’s flu season is already shaping up to be “moderately severe,” though some states, like California and Texas, are suffering an unusually high number of cases. The more virulent H3N2 strain is widespread across the entire United States (except Hawaii), accompanied here and there by pockets of H1N1 and Influenza B. This year’s flu vaccine is said to be no better than a 30 percent match for the predominant strain, though vaccination will reduce the severity of the disease no matter what strain you catch.
As usual, young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable to the deadly complications of flu (pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis). But the highly publicized flu deaths of a ten-year-old boy from New Jersey, a healthy young bodybuilder in Pennsylvania and a middle-aged marathoner/mother of three in California have captured the public’s attention. In all three cases, the victims had sought medical attention early, but succumbed anyway.
Between this very scary flu and a killer cold that has been sweeping through the Marshall community sickening people for weeks at a time, I’m afraid to leave my cave at all. And with the howling wind blowing snow into sparkling drifts outside my (double-glazed) windows, I just don’t see the need to do so. At least until the kibble runs out. Maybe in April.
*Information for this post taken from "Questions and Answers About This Year's Flu Season," by Donald G. McNeil, Jr. The NY Times, January 18, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/18/health/flu-season-facts.html