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Gargulinski

This year's flu, coming soon to a home near you!

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Man can land on the moon, and digitalize and stream endless reruns of Columbo, but we still can't beat the flu. Sure, we can get flu shots based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "best guess" on what virus may be kicking around on any given year. But a sensational strain stretching across our fair land is blissfully immune to the standard vaccinations.

We're calling it the Lucas virus, in honor of my 4-year-old cousin, who we are convinced brought it to the Christmas Eve family gathering.

As news reports said, this year's monster virus did indeed stem from the Great Lakes region. And Lucas did indeed open his mouth really wide at least once to scream in the middle of the living room. As family members hugged, laughed and shared pierogies, no one was the wiser that we had become carriers of this abominable bug.

The Lucas virus made its way to the West Coast via my brother and sister-in-law, who brought the thing to Sacramento. It came to the Southwest on US Airways Flight 281 from Detroit to Phoenix, then shimmied down to Tucson thanks to a ride from my beau from the airport.

Once it hits your house, don't be surprised if you don't think it's the flu right away. Mom was actually ordered to get a CAT scan since her version of the virus decided to seize the muscles on one side of her chest, making it nearly impossible to breathe.

On my end, I was sure I was on death's door. Never mind that I also thought I was on death's door when I got a spider bite some time back—this was the real door. Symptoms included aching muscles, aching eyeballs and aching bones. Even my cuticles ached.

Add a sensitivity to light so severe that I had to wear sunglasses in the house on a head that was about to explode. The raw and fiery throat at least gave me an excuse to dig out the humidifier (which does wonders for your skin!). The sweat-inducing fever had me changing my sheets on a daily basis. The only symptoms lacking were nausea and vomiting, although everything I ate tasted like Cheese Puffs without the cheese.

The final punch in the face from this dandy virus is the insomnia. "Sleep it off" is not an option. You are instead wide awake, aching and sweating in the dead of night. Here's where you ramble and moan as you pace about the house, a wide-eyed, wild-eyed, sunglasses-wearing zombie. Your wails and whines wake up your boyfriend, who is in the later stages of his own version of the virus, a stage where you actually get to sleep.

"Do you want me to take you to the emergency room?"

Don't go to the emergency room. Unless you're bleeding to death, the emergency room is not a wise option, and even then the wait is likely to last longer than your blood supply. You don't even have to go to the doctor, as mine has already confirmed the Lucas virus is neither influenza A nor B. It's not strep throat. Besides, you're likely to pick up a cold in the doctor's waiting room.

Don't be the hero who goes to work. Please. People who go to work when they are seething with sickness belong in the same category of yokels who think they drive better when they're drunk. For starters, your productivity is going to be nil, and you may even screw something up. You'll also infect the office, making the productivity of the entire staff nil and possibly sending the company out of business. Then you'll be in the doghouse along with Lucas.

Do get your psychosomatic kicks. Nothing really helps this virus, but you can make yourself think you're being active in your recovery by downing Super Orange Emergen-C, popping echinacea capsules and drinking cup after cup of herbal tea. Slippery elm-bark tea does help the fiery throat, as does the humidifier and not talking unless spoken to.

Do relax. Your only option is to ride it out, and perhaps take something for the killer headache. Meditate with a focus on healing. Break out your feng shui singing bowl to purge the evil virus energy from your home. Sit back, prop your pillows, hug your dogs. And you may as well take advantage of man's technological advances by streaming endless digital reruns of Columbo.

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