Advent is a season of hope and expectation, a time of waiting: for the Christ child, for prophecy to be fulfilled, for severe muscle aches and a temperature of 104.
This year, depending on your religious beliefs, Santa Claus may or may not be coming to town, but the bird flu definitely is, and it won’t matter if you’ve been bad or good. It will be bad.
Every major international health organization, including our own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (motto: THE SKY IS FALLING!), say that it is not a matter of if a pandemic will sweep the globe, but when. And those of you with the annoying habit of saying “bless you” at every sneeze will be of little help.
The virus started in Asia, where it can be produced more cheaply, and is slowly spreading west, following the ancient trade route established by a dispirited Marco Polo returning from the east with the bad news that his countrymen didn’t, in fact, invent spaghetti. By April the virus could be in Paris, where fashion experts are predicting surgical masks will be all the rage.
Originating as a bird-borne disease, the virus spread first among the chicken farms of Vietnam, where poor farmers lived and even slept in close proximity to their flocks. (Don’t laugh. You sleep with your dog, right? Which, in some Asian cultures, would be like taking a pot roast to bed.) Scientists don’t know exactly how the avian flu virus mutates into a strain that can infect humans (personally, I blame teenagers), but members of the Kansas Board of Education were more confident, proclaiming that its mysterious complexity can mean only one thing: It was created by intelligent design. Turns out, if something’s too complicated to easily understand, it must have come from the hand of God. (I’d like to take this moment to thank God for my Mr. Coffee. I don’t know exactly how it works, but it’s a real blessing in the morning.)