Tuesday 26 March 2019

Bill Linnane: Children dying of the flu is wake-up call we all need to stop being blasé and get jab

Notebook

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gets his flu vaccine from clinical nurse manager Brid Ryan O’Malley. Photo: Mark Stedman
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gets his flu vaccine from clinical nurse manager Brid Ryan O’Malley. Photo: Mark Stedman
Bill Linnane

Bill Linnane

There are many pleasant occurrences at the changing of the seasons - shorter days mean the awkward among us breathe a sigh of relief as they slump into social hibernation - but some things are less welcome: the mass migration of giant spiders into our homes, or having to pretend you care about the Budget beyond diesel and pints. But the least welcome seasonal occurrence of all has to be the return of the norovirus - better known as the winter vomiting bug.

I don't remember this bug being around when I was a child. I don't recall the horror of when it takes hold of a family, spreading from person to person like wildfire, forcing violently unwell parents to chase nauseous toddlers about the house with a basin, as if Caligula directed an episode of 'It's a Knockout'.

I can remember measles and mumps, even the odd demonic possession, but not this.

It seems like a very modern bug, one that preys on our very modern belief that just about everything is going to kill us. As actual illnesses go, it does little real damage to healthy subjects, apart from helping us shift a half stone just in time for the Halloween binge.

One virus that definitely needs a rebrand is influenza, a life-threatening bug about which we have become so blasé that we don't even call it by its full title. If only it had the cachet of bird flu and swine flu, which went truly viral in the last five years. Even the uptake of the influenza vaccine is poor - because, hey, it could never happen to me, and even if it does, sure, I'll be grand.

This year is different. There is a particular strain of flu that has hit Australia with punishing ferocity. Where previously it was a serious threat to the elderly or those with underlying conditions, now it is also a threat to the young - it has already taken the lives of three children.

This is a wake-up call. At the ripe old age of 42, I now have to accept that the onus is on me to get the vaccine. It's a sad sign that I am both getting older and getting sense, and I worry about what comes next - pension plans? College funds? Minding my cholesterol levels? Nevertheless, off I go to get the jab. Now, if only they could come up with a vaccine for the norovirus.

Saucy PR stunt badly backfires

Spare a thought for fast-food chain McDonald's, which is struggling to produce its condiments.

Inspired by the hit adult cartoon 'Rick and Morty', Maccie D's decided it might be fun to reintroduce its long-gone Szechuan sauce for just one day, but in limited supplies.

It seems to have underestimated the demand, as some outlets got only 20 sachets and there were scenes of screaming children and angry adults shouting at bemused staff. In some outlets, the police were called to deal with irate customers. Within hours, three packets of the sauce went on eBay and sold for $280 each, while Twitter went into its usual meltdown.

Is McDonald's running out of food? Or did a marketing ploy backfire spectacularly? Given that this was America, let's all just be thankful that nobody got shot.

Hail King D - our president for life

The campaign to make Michael D Higgins President for life starts here. His tenure in the Áras has been a huge success - from his compassion, to his communication skills, to his general je ne sais quoi.

You just get the sense that were you ever to find yourself lost in the Burren, he would emerge from a dolmen to teach you how to read ogham and show you which mushrooms to eat, before guiding you back to civilisation by the stars.

He has done such a great job, it is easy to forget the also-rans from the 2011 campaign. While he didn't just win by being the best of an uninspiring lot, it was a pretty poor line-up. There was the Uncle-Fester-in-Louis-Copeland guy, the sad eyebrow guy who looked like 'ALF', I think Enya was there, and some others whom I don't recall.

Michael D won because he is both a man of letters and someone who knows how to deliver an intellectual headbutt to those who deserve it. Listening back to his surgical takedown of American right-wing radio host Michael Graham - in which D used his keen intellect to eviscerate him and also manages to call him a w****r - is proof of his president-for-life status. And if that role isn't possible, let's just stick a throne on Tara, give him a couple of wolfhounds and make him high king of Ireland instead.

All hail King D.

Irish Independent

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