Johnny’s World: Epidemic

January 24, 2013 9:39 AM5 comments

weir-mugIt’s winter. Snow is falling, streets are icing over, and there are flu and meningitis epidemics all around. Since the beginnings of winter, and the human race, there have been attempts to combat against freezing temperatures and to keep a watch of personal health. What strikes me as interesting is how often people get sick, and how rarely people heed the warnings of grandmothers and medical geniuses alike who have cautioned that life is hard when it’s cold.

As a citizen of the world lucky enough to travel, I always try to learn as I go, whether I be picking up fashion, dietary, or health tips from the countries I visit. I recently returned from my 27th trip to Japan. For the first time I encountered snow in Tokyo, which sent the extremely organized public transportation into frenzy and, in terms of snow removal, showed how rare it is to have “big snow” in Tokyo. In this gorgeous snowstorm, I was able to see how people dress for winter – necks closed up with scarves, hats covering ever-fragile heads, and masks reminiscent of the SARS epidemic (which I learned not only prevent illness, but also keep your mouth and the air you breathe warm as you trudge mercilessly through the cold. These masks aren’t to be mocked; nearly everyone uses them in Japan, an island nation where an epidemic strong enough could mean major casualties to her population.

Having spent many a winter’s day in Russia, I have seen that covering the neck and mouth with scarves, as well as covering the ears, is the dominant fashion of making it safely through winter. Using fur coats, while not always supported, is the only way to make it through the dry, sub-zero conditions of the country. Thick boots made of sheepskin or Mongolian lamb aren’t there for a fashion statement, but more so to keep your feet from freezing and paralyzing you. Wear a synthetic fiber coat or plastic boots, and you will get frostbite in Mother Russia’s harsh climate. In addition to the fashions, in winter you can get nothing served cold or iced – aside from vodka, nature’s natural astringent, or an iced-over look if you even ask for an iced coffee in an overheated café. Boiling-hot food and drink are the only things that will save you from catching a cold.

Approaching my return from Japan, I was warned of a massive flu outbreak in my area, which almost convinced me to extend my stay. How does this even happen to a wealthy and moderately medically educated population, every year?

Our country may not be too rich with folklore and holistic remedies, but we are a country of smart people and common sense. But if that statement is true, why does my car thermometer show a temperature of 12 degrees as I see a 30-something woman carrying a “Sigma Sigma Sigma” burlap messenger bag wearing unlined moccasins, no socks, no scarf, and a “down-alternative“ puffy vest walking down River Road? This idiot is the one who in two days will be red-nosed and whining in a doctor’s office waiting room about what a bad time it is to be sick and how she doesn’t know how it happened. Meanwhile, she’s infected her whole office and her roommates by her own stupidity, will be off work for a week and, on the first healthy, non-feverish day, will be back in the cold with no socks begging for it to happen again. If she had listened to her grandmother’s crazy bundling stories, watched TV and saw an ad for those free flu shots, or even just used her own clever judgment, she wouldn’t be paying for this doctor’s visit. This is why we have flu epidemics.

Of course there are epidemics everywhere, but use your head, take your vitamins, wash your hands often, and dress appropriately. Mother Nature doesn’t care if you think scarves are lame, she will get you sick. Bundle up, America.





  • You can’t get sick by being improperly dressed for the cold. You get sick in winter because germs spread more easily in heated rooms (and airplanes). But I will agree with you that it’s dumb not to dress properly in the winter. It was 13 degrees when I took my dog out this morning, and I even wore silk long underwear. People in New England know how to dress for cold, but for some reason people in the NY area don’t.

  • Tis true, I have to agree with for former poster that it is not cold weather that makes you sick but the germs that spread quicker.. (it’s a science thang). However, I too am shocked at the number of people that do not heed the warnings to dress appropriately. Not just them, but their animals, in these temperatures, certain dogs need coats on their walks and even horses need a blanket wrapped around them if their to be left out in the pasture.
    I don’t do the flu shot thing, but due to my overall illness of which is not ‘curable’, I DO take tons of vitamins and try to eat healthy natural foods. America is based on a take-out pizza and hoagies society which is why so many are obese, not just a little chunky. If people would take better care of themselves, overall, and not run to the doctor for antibiotics every time they sneeze, I don’t believe we’d have these ‘epidemics’.

  • And P.S… glad you’re home safe once again, Johnny! Love you, sweets!

  • Just saw a guy yesterday in T-shirt, shorts and sandals. I guess this is some sort of macho.

  • Have read that flu viruses survive longer in dry cold air than in humid or warm air. Hope you can stay healthy in spite of being confined in close quarters with so many people in this winter season on planes and in lines at airports.

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