I REACHED peak coronavirus some time last week, between reports of cockroaches on Christmas Island and a quarantined coronavirus-affected woman's confirmation that, yes, she hadn't slept well the previous night in a cruise ship medical room because of a runny nose.
This is not a rejection of the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak or the need for a global response to contain its spread. Any virus that's suspected of jumping the animal/human barrier, like this latest coronavirus outbreak, requires an urgent global response. The ebola virus is in that category, with a 90 per cent death rate.
This coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, causes pneumonia in some people. While most will experience relatively minor symptoms, those who go on to develop viral pneumonia can't be treated with antibiotics because they're of no use. People die because their immune systems can't or don't respond to the level required.
I have no doubt that containing the spread is the best way of shutting down these conditions, hence the Chinese government's lockdown of about 60 million of its citizens, the barring of travellers from China into many countries, and the quarantining of people where the virus is found. As of February 12 there were more than 45,000 confirmed cases in 29 countries and more than 1100 deaths.
An Australian woman in a quarantined area on a cruise ship described her coronavirus symptoms as 'like a cold', and not much more than like a cold. Reports of flights to Wuhan to 'rescue stranded Australians' sounded a touch over-dramatic after that.
But there is a point where the reporting of this virus as the lead item in almost every news bulletin you hear, can become a little ... counterproductive.
It reached that point for me last week after an Australian woman in a quarantined area on a cruise ship described her coronavirus symptoms as "like a cold", and not much more than like a cold. Reports of flights to Wuhan to "rescue stranded Australians" sounded a touch over-dramatic after that.
Not that I didn't sympathise with the woman, trapped in a small area on a cruise ship for two weeks while her runny nose was monitored for signs of something more sinister.
No disrespect to cruise ships and people who like cruising, but two weeks stuck in a room on a cruise ship with only a porthole for company sounds like my idea of hell.
And I say this with some idea what that state is like.
A few years ago I ended up on a ship with one of my sisters for a week as it cruised around some Pacific Islands. My sister had always pictured herself sitting on the balcony of a cruise ship cabin sipping a frosted drink with an umbrella in it. Me? Not so much.
But there we were - as the cruise ship made its majestic way through the Heads at Sydney on a balmy, golden evening - hanging over our balcony railing, chatting to our neighbours hanging over their railings either side, and waving to non-existent people going about their business on the mainland. We were cruising! Hooray!
Then reality hit with the sight of a man wearing some kind of animal onesie on the pool deck, while our several thousand fellow travellers talked about the outfits they planned to wear at the themed after-dinner events.
Me: "You didn't tell me they had cowboy nights and Hollywood star nights."
Sister: "They always have theme nights on cruises. People love them."
Me: "Where's our first stop?"
Sister: "Not saying. Just relax and enjoy it."
The first thing you notice about a cruise ship is how many other people tend to be on it, particularly near the smorgasbord. The second thing is how much your body notices a cruise ship's movement, even when it's cruising across a flat sea. It's at that point a cruise ship tends to divide neatly in half, into the people with delicate stomachs and the people who laugh at the idea of having a delicate stomach. I'm a card-carrying member of the former, my sister of the latter.
I found laying on my back on a seat on a blowy deck out of the sun about midway down the ship was the best remedy for the nausea of the first day or two. Wind on my face remedied the worst of it.
Which is why reports of people quarantined and stranded in their rooms on cruise ships - some with no fresh air and no way of opening a window - have given me the horrors.
My idea of a good holiday is one with very few people, lots of open spaces, no phones, and somebody else sorting out the food. Iceland and Norway fit that bill.
My sister is nothing if not accommodating. Once I passed the I-think-I'm-going-to-heave period I entered the Oh-my-God-I'm-trapped-on-a-confined-space-with-piles-of-strangers-in-onesies-and-Marilyn-Monroe-outfits period.
My sister's remedy was to pull on running gear and circumnavigate the entire ship, including stair repeats up and down the nine or so flights at the ship's either end. Repeat until your sister drops or you push her over the edge.
Our fellow travellers got used to us after a time, in the way that you get used to your next door neighbour's habit of putting out the garbage wearing nothing but underwear and a smile.
I first noticed my runny nose four days in, when they told us we wouldn't be able to get off the ship at a scheduled island because the sea was too rough. By that afternoon I was hacking and spluttering, my head was aching, my eyes were watering, and I had the kind of cough you usually associate with an old wharfie who started smoking at 10.
My sister and I agreed it was a coping mechanism. I couldn't cope with one more bloke in a cow onesie eating breakfast so I took to my bed with a book and the balcony door open and emerged as we returned through the Heads.
To the quarantined, I salute.
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