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GENERATIONS: Doug Lewandowski: Holidays can linger. . . literally

Christmas comes and goes. Families gather, interactions warm, sometimes rewarding and occasionally conflicted, and kids go nuts.

Doug LewandowskiSometimes the most fun, at least for the adults, is watching toddlers rip into the packages. After the carnage is over and the clean-up begins, vigilant parents try to make sure gift cards and miniscule electronic devices worth their weight in gold don’t end up in Waste Management’s flow. Then there’s the dark side, and I don’t mean running out of batteries. No, it’s the virus exchange.

Viruses are adaptable. They have been around for a long time and shape shift with incredible speed. Modern medicine tries all kinds of strategies in anticipation of what the bugs will do. It’s too bad Las Vegas doesn’t set odds for flu shot effectiveness. You could make some serious money here! This year’s pre-emptive puncture is supposed to be 10 percent effective, really lousy odds. The house wins!

The general population labors under the impression that the flu shot is supposed to prevent stomach bugs and their by-products. That’s not the case, as the flu shot is meant to immunize against influenza; think Spanish Flu in the early part of the last century. No, a 24- to 36-hour flu virus is a different beast altogether.

It seems like any gathering from around Thanksgiving thru Christmas has a 50 percent hit rate of screwing up a holiday when it comes to the stomach flu. Short of wearing a hazmat suit and bathing in Purell, there is little one can do. Clorox wipes and fumigation sometimes puts a dent in the vitality of the organisms and cuts down on contagion, but the bug will have its way.

Over the river and through the woods becomes a maybe, depending on whether or not grandma and grandpa are still standing and little Bertie is not tossing -- things.

Then imagine you and the whole family save up big bucks to go on a cruise ship in the sunny Caribbean over the Christmas Holiday, where the sun shines every day and the temperatures are more like mid-July here. Will the 50 percent rule still hold? Of course it will.

It’s a really bad sign when the captain doesn’t make it to the dinner table for two nights running because he is “indisposed.” What could go wrong? The ocean is glass flat and the ship isn’t listing or sinking. Worried looks on the crew’s faces and a hundred and one hand sanitation stations pop up. . . everywhere!

Then whispering starts, “norovirus.” The 50 percent rule is realized; a lot of cabin time for a lot of people. The little kid in the compartment next door talks about “no-no virus.” No kidding!

Most of us look forward to Christmas celebrations. Traditions sweep us up in rituals that have been part of family customs for generations and provide threads of continuity. Unfortunately, gathering a lot of people in one place also brings along microscopic hitchhikers we’d just as soon leave behind by the side of the road.

More of Doug’s writings can be seen at