Sep 292009
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

Just last week, an internationally published authority broke the story that swine flu is mutating our citizens into man-pig hybrids. Internationally published of course meaning the internet, authority meaning me, and broke the story meaning “did not do my research beyond assuming that all viruses work like they do in Resident Evil.”

To compensate, I looked into this whole “influenza” thing, and discovered that the so-called swine flu is actually a variant of a seasonally-recurring disease called “the flu” that kills way more people than swine flu does. Also, we’re not supposed to call it “swine flu” because apparently Egypt got confused and ordered all their pigs killed.

Naturally, I owe you all an apology. I’m hoping not to get scooped on this, as I’m sure the media at large is soon going to be apologizing for giving so much coverage to this disease while regular, borin’ old influenza is more deadly and far more widespread.

After the apology, I have a new idea for what we can do to prevent a further lack of coverage on influenza and to perhaps do some incidental good.

We change the name. Taliban flu. Instant media coverage. And, if we’re very lucky, some fortunate misunderstandings.

Still, it would be better to avoid catching the flu, Taliban Swine or otherwise. Let’s just assume I missed a comma there.

So, in addition to this PR blitz and re-invention of the influenza brand, we’ll need to do some preventative good and make sure everyone knows how to fight the flu properly. Take myself, for example. I pictured “fighting the flu” just now and imagined piloting an attack helicopter. Clearly, I need to face and undo some misconceptions.

The biggest one I’ve heard in college is that you can drink yourself well. This idea combines the fact that hand sanitizers contain alcohol with the fact that your body can also contain alcohol. Most importantly it gives you an excuse to drink, and if health science has taught us anything, it’s that fun things are automatically good for you.

Sadly, it turns out that, no, this is a bad idea. The science explanation made me tired and confused, but the basic gist of it is this — alcohol is a poison. Being sick is hard on the body. Dealing with poisons is also hard on the body. Therefore, you must drink so much that they cancel each other out, using the old adage that two wrongs make a right.

I’ve also seen some people try the old saying, “starve a fever, feed a cold.” This one, I’m pretty sure, should work. After all, fire needs fuel, and a fever is essentially a fire. Of course, in this metaphor the disease causing the illness would be the fire, and the fever would be more like the heat from the fire, so without food it’s more likely that you’ll be the fuel, but that’s clearly carrying the metaphor too far.

That’s the whole point of a good metaphor. It will convey just enough of the concept to give you some vague idea. Research should always stop with the first impression and a vague grasp of what’s going on. Swine flu means pigs must be exterminated, just as H1N1 is getting more media attention and therefore is more deadly than anything.

And metaphors convey every nuance through a vague idea. That’s really all you need. After all, it’s only your health.

Johnathan Kastner is a senior undeclared major with a physical and mathematical sciences interest. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.