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SARS: It’s the end of the world – Blame Canada

I’m scared every minute I’m in public. I bite my nails, and I break out in a nervous, stress-related rash. And, no, I’m not worried the female fans of my column will spot me, chase me down and strip me bare looking for souvenirs.

With the in-depth, 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week news coverage of the SARS epidemic, complete with a cornucopia of photos of people either withering in hospital beds or shopping, strolling, visiting and dining while playing peek-a-boo from behind pressed white surgical masks, I know some day soon SARS is bound to sneak its way into my bloodstream, attack my immune system and wipe me out like a mom wipes a booger from a beloved daughter’s nose.

Now I’m not exactly sure what SARS stands for – maybe Save the Australian Rare Sloth – or what it is, but I’m terrified of catching it. So much so that when I see news about the worldwide outbreak, well, I just flip out. (There is a worldwide outbreak, isn’t there? The world is coming to an end, isn’t it?)



Did you know that currently more than 375 people have died from SARS worldwide? That’s more people than have died from freak toothbrush accidents and vicious anteater attacks combined.

All of this, of course, has forced me to take drastic measures.



Since I figured the likelihood of my catching SARS from someone from China is three cars in the traffic jam shy of impossible, because China – where the disease originated – is so geographically distant from Summit County, I turned my attention to Canada.

Canada has an unprotected border and a close proximity to Colorado – it has long, cold winters and it likes hockey, so I figure we must be neighbors – and a free-wheeling, ale-drinking attitude, so I just know I’m going to bump into some Canadian guy or gal who will either cough or sneeze on me, and that will be it. I’m a goner.

My paranoia has become so acute I’ve stopped frequenting my favorite Canadian restaurants.

Yeah, that’s right, no more moose takeout for me. And I’ve stopped drinking Canadian Club Soda because I don’t really know where it’s bottled. I’ve also stopped listening to Shania Twain albums (she’s from Canada) and worst of all, I’ve had to forgo breakfast at McDonald’s because I just can’t take the risk of eating the Canadian bacon they put on my beloved Egg McMuffin.

And hockey, you can forget about going to any hockey games. I mean, did you know that not only are there Canadians on the teams from Canada, but they also let them play on the American teams?

What about public safety? Just because the World Health Organization (WHO?) has removed the travel restriction to Toronto, that doesn’t mean our Egg McMuffins are safe for human consumption.

Of course my wife is the voice of reason in our house, and she keeps telling me – with love in her heart of course – to knock off the whining if I’m going to watch the news.

Sure, she will admit if we were traveling in China right now we might take precautions, but she feels our chances of contracting SARS are about as good as a cyclist in Summit County obeying traffic laws. Besides, she said, the death rate from the disease is less than that of the common flu.

But that doesn’t seem to do me any good. I guess I’ll just keep my eye on the news and a hot dog in my mouth.

Andrew Gmerek writes is this space every Friday. For the record, SARS stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome.”


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