2535: Common Cold Viruses
|Common Cold Viruses|
Title text: "It's not an influenza, but the onset has notes of the '09 H1N1 strain." "Ah yes, that was a good year for H1N1."
In this strip, Megan and White Hat are listening to Cueball explain his newfound interest in the various different viruses that cause the common cold, which is an umbrella term used to describe the mild-to-moderate symptoms these viruses all cause.
Megan expresses curiosity as well, and White Hat suggests he could get a DNA sequencer to help. By the third and final panel, several years have passed. All three characters appear to be ill, perhaps even as a result of now purposefully infecting themselves with chosen diseases. Whether deliberately or 'naturally', they do seem to have by now encountered a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and various types of rhinoviruses, and are now describing their experienced symptoms with terms similar to ones used in wine tasting (e.g. "bouquet" is a term used in wine tasting; "nosefeel" is a parody of the wine-tasting term "mouthfeel", etc.).
This strip follows the theme of 915: Connoisseur, making fun of the fact that people can form strong opinions and preferences on pretty much anything if they spend enough time and attention on it. In this case, despite the fact that the symptoms of these viruses are almost universally considered to be unpleasant, the characters appear to have developed an appreciation for the subtle variations. A similar phenomenon is referenced in 1095: Crazy Straws.
The idea of intentionally infecting a person with a disease is a trope in multiple Speculative Fiction stories. For instance, Iain M. Banks' Culture series, set in a world where all diseases are eradicated or treatable, includes story lines where persons deliberately infect themselves with viruses to experience the symptoms.
The title text references the H1N1 swine flu virus, which was the disease at the heart of the 2009 swine flu pandemic. It also further expands on the wine tasting comparison – connoisseurs often consider the environmental conditions of the growing season the grapes came from as an important factor in the quality of a given wine, so certain years may be considered better than others. Since 2009, less severe forms of H1N1 influenza have become one of the standard variants in annual flu seasons and a perennial in the influenza vaccination mix. From the influenza strain's perspective, 2009 was the year of breakthrough success for H1N1.
As access to community makerspaces, labs, and knowledge has spread, people have begun doing more things at home that were previously confined to industrial and academic research environments. This was stimulated further during the onset of the pandemic, when communities became focused on helping offset overtaxed national resources.
- [Megan, Cueball, and White Hat are standing in a group.]
- Cueball: COVID has made me so curious about colds. The next time I get one, I want to know which virus it is specifically.
- Cueball: A rhinovirus? RSV? Mild influenza? Or something weird like metapneumovirus?
- [They begin to talk together.]
- Megan: How distinct are they? Could you learn to tell them apart?
- Cueball: See, I wonder!
- White Hat: I could get a sequencer from work...
- [Caption above the panel:]
- Several years later...
- [In this panel, Cueball is sitting on the left, Megan is sitting on the right, and White Hat is standing at the far right. Megan is coughing, her hair frazzled. There is a tissue box in the middle, and discarded tissues lie on the ground.]
- Cueball: Ah yes, this one has the rich, full-bodied bouquet of RSV, but the heady congestion lends it a lingering rhinovirus nosefeel.
- Megan: *Cough*
- Megan: Quite right!
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