2279: Symptoms

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This medicine says it may cause lightheadedness, dry mouth, and blurred vision, but my head feels incredibly heavy, water is pouring from my mouth, and I can see individual hummingbird wingbeats, so I think I'm fine.
Title text: This medicine says it may cause lightheadedness, dry mouth, and blurred vision, but my head feels incredibly heavy, water is pouring from my mouth, and I can see individual hummingbird wingbeats, so I think I'm fine.


This comic is the fifth comic in a row in a series of comics about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The comic states that the symptoms of a disease are shortness of breath, fever, fatigue and dry cough. These are the top 3 and 5th most common symptoms reported for COVID-19. This is thus the fifth comic in a row about this disease, released on the day that the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Looking these symptoms up on his phone, Cueball reads them to Megan who expresses relief. The experiences of hers she claims as normal are so extremely opposite to the symptoms of the disease, that getting it might even be a boon rather than a harm. If a person has powerful lungs, shortness of breath wouldn't be very noticeable. She references icy skin, normally not a fever symptom, although heavy sweating caused by fever can lower temperature. She describes having frenzied energy, the opposite of fatigue.

The last symptom is an "incredibly wet cough", and although that is the opposite of a dry cough, it still sounds quite bad. The description she gives opposes COVID-19, but may be indicative of something else.

The focus on how symptoms play out differently for people with different normal experiences distantly touches on, but deftly evades, the harsh reality that people who, unlike the comic's characters, already have severe respiratory issues, may die in large quantities unless our response to the virus improves. This is because the impact of a disease relates to how bad its symptoms are for the carriers.

Megan's optimistic reaction is ironic, considering these could be symptoms of a whole host of medical situations, including any kind of flu.

The title text expands on this joke. Cueball reads up on the side effects from some medicine. Here again they don't have the common side effects of the medicine but the exact opposite, so they think they must be fine, even though those "anti-symptoms" are themselves cause for concern.

It also reflects on the whole concept of symptom/side effect warnings themselves as often people have no good frame of reference for when a particular symptom is actually abnormal. It is often easy for one to believe they match some or all of a list of symptoms because for someone to be absolutely sure they do not have a specific symptom, they would need an almost comic level of "normality".

The medicine is supposed to make the user:

  1. Lightheaded, but Megan's head feels heavy.
  2. Have a dry mouth, but water is pouring out of Megan's mouth.
  3. Have blurred vision, but Megan sees so clearly that she can spot individual hummingbird wingbeats.

Having a heavy head is not a good sign, even though the opposite is also not good. Dry mouth can be annoying but her condition sounds dangerous. And although blurred vision is a bad thing, it is impossible for a human eye to follow the 12-80 beats a second of a hummingbird; this suggests that Megan might be hallucinating, which is arguably even worse.

Much later in 2580: Rest and Fluids, the joke is again on symptoms or rather getting them again. The pandemic was still going almost two years later.


[Cueball and Megan stand facing each other, with Cueball looking down at his smartphone held up in one hand.]
Cueball: It says here common symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, and a dry cough.
Megan: That's reassuring to me, a person with powerful lungs, icy skin, frenzied energy, and an incredibly wet cough.

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Coronavirus or Covid-19 should be tags. “That Guy from the Netherlands” (talk) 17:39, 11 March 2020 (UTC)

Agreed. Depending on how you count 2278, this series has been running continuously since 2275. So this is the 4th or 5th NCOV-2019 comic. The only problem is what should we name the tag? 18:37, 11 March 2020 (UTC)
"COVID-19" I'd say, for scientific accuracy.--GoldNinja (talk) 18:59, 11 March 2020 (UTC)
I just added a Category:SARS-CoV-2 since Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 indicates that's the current official name. BTW, reCAPTCHA got very aggressive after I tagged the second page. I don't suppose there's a proper place to complain? 19:10, 11 March 2020 (UTC)
I would use Category:COVID-19 instead. If I'm reading the Wikipedia articles correctly, SARS-CoV-2 is the virus, while COVID-19 is the disease. And "COVID-19" is actually in fairly common use in the media compared to SARS-CoV-2. -- 19:51, 11 March 2020 (UTC)
I feel compelled to chime in here: SARS is by definition a syndrome defined by a symptom set, while COVID-19 is the designation given to this mutation of the virus itself. If Wikipedia has that backwards, somebody edited it wrong. Edit: I just looked & they're both a symptom set, so there really isn't a term in common use for the virus itself; Thanks, epidemiologists.
ProphetZarquon (talk) 12:41, 16 March 2020 (UTC)
That makes sense. But I'm not going thru that many reCAPTCHAs again. (I'm also not likely to make an account at this time, or to respond to further messages here. Sorry.) 20:24, 11 March 2020 (UTC)
You not creating account really doesn't make sense. Done. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:20, 11 March 2020 (UTC)
I think Category:Corona virus would have been better. Since that is what everyone calls it and what it will be remembered as later. --Kynde (talk) 11:27, 12 March 2020 (UTC)
There are now many references to COVID-19 instead of Coronavirus. It seems to be replacing the former, socially speaking. 14:39, 12 March 2020 (UTC)
I would label it COVID-19, as that's the most common usage that's specific to this pandemic. Coronavirus is literally every cold, & SARS-CoV-2 (while accurate & more descriptive) is not a widely used term at this time.
ProphetZarquon (talk) 13:17, 13 March 2020 (UTC)
Not every cold. Coronaviruses cause about 30% of colds. 00:45, 14 March 2020 (UTC)
Noted! #NotAllColds
ProphetZarquon (talk) 12:41, 16 March 2020 (UTC)

Re. the title text, my reaction would be, "The medicine must not be working. I'd better take more." 18:38, 11 March 2020 (UTC)Pat

Again? I get that this pandemic is a big deal, but I was really hoping Randall would be a little more creative and come up with some other topics to talk about. Bischoff (talk) 14:35, 12 March 2020 (UTC)

I have no clue if he's just jumping on the bandwagon to stay relevant or if he's legitimately extremely panicked over it. --Youforgotthisthing (talk) 19:49, 12 March 2020 (UTC)
@Youforgotthisthing: keep in mind that Randall's wife is a cancer survivor and most likely immunocompromised. I wouldn't blame him for being worried. Cellocgw (talk) 11:13, 13 March 2020 (UTC)
Or for that matter if he, like most intelligent people, is dealing with what little danger there is by making fun of the people who are legitimately extremely panicked over it. 20:01, 12 March 2020 (UTC)

Hey, a hummingbird is only 80fps? That's nothing, people are now buying gaming monitors with 260 fps just because they claim they can see frame tear. Seebert (talk) 17:40, 12 March 2020 (UTC)

Some tests (admittedly run by the companies which make hardware to enable gaming at 240+ fps) have shown benefits of high-refresh monitors in terms of snap reactions to sudden movement, but not the ability to perceive high-frequency cyclical phenomena. --NotaBene (talk) 21:14, 12 March 2020 (UTC)
Older cathode ray tube monitors running at 60Hz only appeared flicker-free because the phosphor-lit pixels faded gradually between frames. With the near instant on\off switching of LCD & LED monitors, 60Hz frame tearing can become quite noticeable (& 24fps looks downright "cinematic" in its flickering). For LCD, LED, & DLP displays, 75Hz is near the minimum for flicker-free perception, with many people still experiencing discomfort, eyestrain, headaches or nausea all the way up to 100Hz. Comparatively little content is produced at 100Hz, while traditional 29.97Hz & 60Hz content display relatively smoothly at 120Hz; in addition, most home 3D display systems rely upon alternating left-eye\right-eye opacity switching, so 240Hz has become a common standard display frequency (capable of displaying most common framerates without necessitating intensive frame-smoothing effects). For viewers with acute motion sensitivity, 240Hz displays & 120fps or higher content is a major benefit. Personally as a long-time video technician, I believe most low framerate video exhibiting noticeable frame-tearing is a result of sloppy mastering, as horizontal panning is notoriously well known to exacerbate this effect: Horizontal panning should either have frame-smoothing effects applied, or be rendered at >100Hz; anything else looks shoddy, or at best "retro".
ProphetZarquon (talk) 16:08, 13 March 2020 (UTC)

Am I the only one reading Megan's reaction instead as being sarcastic about fitting that description most of the time, even when (relatively) well? I think it's not the first comic by Randall exploring being behind on the fitness/health curve relative to general population, so it felt like continuation of the theme. -- 12:10, 13 March 2020 (UTC)

I was reading Megan's reaction as slyly trying to hit on Cueball. Especially with an expression like "wet cough." 14:21, 13 March 2020 (UTC)
Whatever floats your goat man, but I doubt that any of her symptoms are considered sexy or otherwise desirable by most people. Especially since she seems to emphasise her incredibly wet cough. Bischoff (talk) 15:35, 13 March 2020 (UTC)
Yep, there is a certain paucity of lung porn, especially as not many woman can hold their breath so long or have gills (needs citation) 13:56, 14 March 2020 (UTC)

Did anyone else think that Megan might be simply sarcastic here, pointing out that the symptoms would be hard to distinguish as people often experience fatigue and dry cough as opposed to the strange-sounding wet cough, fervent energy, icy skin etc.? 23:46, 11 March 2023 (UTC)

EDIT: Just noticed a similar comment above, so there are more of us! 23:49, 11 March 2023 (UTC)