Today is Cinco de Mayo! For those who are confused by the recent flu epidemic originating from Mexico, let me remind you that Cinco de Mayo is not Spanish for "sick of mayonnaise". It means the Fifth of May. And it is a day when we celebrate the culture and heritage of our brothers and sisters south of the border by eating refried beans and drinking tequila until we feel like we have the flu.
It is unfortunate that the H1N1 virus (the flu formerly known as Swine) that has taken hold of the news and scared us sick has tempered our enthusiasm for Cinco de Mayo. However, it now appears as though this most recent strain is fairly mild, so with any luck at all we can take off our masks, breathe a sigh of relief, and knock back a margarita or two.
Therefore, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, I would like to take this opportunity to clear up some common misconceptions about the flu, which have grown to epidemic proportions over the past couple of weeks:
Flu is not the past tense of fly. Pigs have flu but pigs can't fly. Birds fly and also carry the flu. Fleas don't fly or carry the flu, but flies fly and transmit diseases that frequently feel like the flu. I hope this is clear.
Flu is actually short for influenza. Influenza is not a town in Mexico. It is an Italian word meaning "I feel like a sick dog." It is contagious and usually contracted when you are on vacation or trapped in the window seat of a transatlantic flight by a sleeping five hundred pound giant who sits between you and the bathroom.
Flu symptoms can vary. Symptoms may include fatigue, headaches, and nausea. It can be difficult to distinguish between influenza and the feeling you get watching an Adam Sandler movie.
There are many kinds of flus, usually named after dirty animals from other countries. For example there is swine flu, bird flu, horse flu, dog flu, and even a chimney flue. Deadly outbreaks have included the Spanish Flu, the Hong Kong Flu, and the Russian Flu. Interestingly enough, there is no New Jersey Flu, although drivers trying to find an entrance to the Turnpike often complain of severe headaches and irritability.
H1N1 is the scientific classification for swine flu. H5N1 is the classification for avian flu. Other flu classifications include R2D2 (Star Wars influenza), $1.2T (the toxic bailout flu), U2 (Bono flu) and HSM4 (the latest mutation of the High School Musical virus which afflicts millions of young people every year).
These diseases are monitored by the WHO (the World Health Organization, a famous rock band known for hurling microphones and smashing guitars) and the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control, three members of ACDC, another famous rock band).
An epidemic is when a new disease inflicts a group of people. A pandemic is when the new disease spreads across a large population. An academic is someone who assigns flu viruses incomprehensible names like H1N1. These terms should not be confused with viral marketing, which is when TV news organizations use five second sound bites from academics to explain epidemics in order to create a pandemic of confusion that will bring in lots of advertising revenue.
You can't get swine flu by eating pork and you can't get avian flu by eating chicken. Similarly, you can't catch a computer virus by eating a computer, although you may have to call India and reboot your digestive tract several times.
You also can't get the flu by eating a worm, even if it is resting on the bottom of a bottle of Mescal. However, you can get sick drinking the bottle of Mescal. I know this from personal experience celebrating Cinco de Mayo one year in college.
You can avoid contracting the flu by washing your hands for twenty seconds. This is the amount of time it takes to sing the complete chorus of "Wasting away again in Margaritaville."
Montezuma was the Emperor of Mexico in the early 1500s. Montezuma's Revenge is not a flu virus, but if you have it, it might as well be. The "revenge" alludes to relentless efforts to thwart colonization throughout Mexico's history.
Cinco de Mayo is not a celebration of Mexican Independence. It is a celebration of the battle over the State of Puebla where the Mexican army defeated the French because they wanted to drink Chardonnay and make guacamole using mayonnaise. Their battle cry was "Sicko de Mayo". The fact that this occurred on the 5th of May, 1862, is purely coincidental.
This is what I learned from an academic interviewed on the Today show. Or maybe it was Joe Biden. I can't remember.
Please wash your hands and eat nachos responsibly.
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