The entire country is already in somewhat of a panic about its fevers and runny noses, Googling flu symptoms like mad and flooding hospitals. The first line of defense is, of course, the flu shot, which experts really suggest everyone go out and get (also, wash your hands!), but the winter sick season is a multipronged war: Other epidemics quickly making their way from that co-worker with three little kids who just sneezed in your general direction include whooping cough and just about the grossest "norovirus" imaginable.
The New York Times has a survey on its front page this morning of the many viruses and diseases we should be worried about in 2013. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's FluView map shows a fittingly dour brown ("widespread activity") almost everywhere:
"Today was the first time I think I was experiencing my first pandemic," said a nursing director who worked the swine flu and SARS scares in Boston, which has already declared a state of emergency.
Then there's the norovirus, a.k.a. "the Ferrari of the virus world," a.k.a. the "cruise ship flu," a.k.a. "ew." This specific strain is being referred to as Sydney 2012, because it originated in Australia, and has since made its way through Britain, Canada, and into the United States. It's not pretty, the Times says:
The classic symptoms of norovirus are “explosive” diarrhea and “projectile” vomiting, which can send infectious particles flying yards away.
"I also saw a woman I’m sure had norovirus," Dr. Zeeman said. "She said she’d gone to the bathroom 14 times at home and 4 times since she came into the E.R. You can get dehydrated really quickly that way."
If that's not enough to convince you to live in a bubble, the CDC reports that whooping cough is at a 60-year high, while laryngitis has also been particularly popular in New York City so far this flu season. For now, the city is not declaring a state of emergency, but not because it's not bad; the Health Department just doesn't want to overcrowd emergency rooms. At the moment, deaths are below epidemic levels across the country, but probably not for long: "Pneumonia usually shows up in national statistics only a week or two after emergency rooms report surges in cases, and deaths start rising a week or two after that." The worst is not over.