Belfast Telegraph

Robert McNeill: It really bugs me we can’t find cure for common cold

The human race has had it up to here with viruses. Surely, they’ve got to go? I’m now in my eighth week of a sore throat, and wondering if I’ll ever recover.

I caught it in a disused warehouse we were doing up as new HQ for our Obscure Oriental Exercises Club. The dust in there was fierce. Typically, I was the only one sensible enough to bring a dust-mask, which the others kept borrowing. One of them, it turned out, was ill. So, obviously, it was a good idea to splutter into a dust-mask and pass it around. You see: other people; nothing but trouble.

Still, I thought I’d be out for a week at most. But two months! It’s riddikerless. If we lived in the Middle Ages, you could understand getting infections and not being able to do anything about it.

But this is the (checks watch) 21st century and we’re still as helpless as kittens before these nasty microbial misanthropes.

What are these guys in white coats doing with all the DNA baloney? We’ve shovelled them tons of money. Now it’s payback time.

But all we get are unlikely stories about how genetic breakthroughs mean we could cure dandruff in — you guessed it — 10 years’ time, ie never.

The seriousness of the situation was highlighted this week when Sir Alex Ferguson revealed his Manchester United team was struggling for last night’s derby because loads of the lads had flu. These are fit boys. Rich boys. Yet there’s nothing they can do. It’s scary. It just shows how far we’ve come from the Black Plague. About two inches.

New figures show that, in Britainshire, 7.6m working days are lost annually because of flu, costing the economy £1.35bn. In Ireland last year, there were fears that flu could be the last straw for the entire economy.

Even the United States isn’t immune. According to a study cited in reliable online resource Wikipedia, flu results in 200,000 hospitalisations (3m hospitalised days), 30m outpatient visits, and 41,000 deaths annually in the US.

Medical costs come to $10bn and lost earnings to $15bn, with a total economic burden of $80bn. And this is the most powerful country in the world.

Never mind the war on terror, what about the war on bugs? It’s the way the terrible tiny viruses worm their way into you that I dislike. It’s a loss of physical integrity, a bacterial rape. The general law of nature is that big things are superior to little things, but these microscopic sods don’t play by the rules.

Well, it’s 2010 and simply not good enough. A quick search on Google reveals that, omitting nutters and quacks, the consensus is there’s no cure in sight for flu. I don’t even have flu any more, just some lingering after-effect that, as usual, nobody can explain. Has anybody ever gone to the doctor and been told what’s wrong with them?

I can’t remember it ever happening. Whatever the ache, pain, numbness, headache, fatigue, itch, spasm, vomit or swoon, there’s never any explanation.

It seems to me that, for all the supposed advances in knowledge, our bodies are becoming more of a mystery rather than less.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my throat has an appointment with a rather large tub of ice cream.

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