In some ways, Juneau is an epidemiologist's dream. Hemmed in by trees, ocean, and mountains and cut off from the rest of the world by a total lack of road access, our little Alaskan city of 35,000 can be a veritable Petri dish.
Contagion like head lice, stomach bugs, and the dreaded cruise ship-borne Norovirus tear through the state's capital with unmatched ferocity. And children, with their lack of personal boundaries and propensity to be, shall we say, "lax" about personal hygiene are the ultimate vector of disease.
Everyone touches the same surfaces in the same handful of supermarkets, schools, and childcare facilities, and that is usually enough to put large swaths of the population down for a 24-72 hour count.
I knew Juneau was in for a ride worthy of a team visit from the CDC when I picked Isaac up from school yesterday and encountered one of his classmates barfing into his Crocs in the hallway. Several of Isaac's friends had gone home early, and he was already acting listless and complaining of stomach pains.
Less than six hours later--just in time for a mom/kid dinner-playdate that was already underway--there was vomit on the walls, carpet, and all over social media. One by one, Juneau parents reported in from the quarantined silos of their homes:
"I was cleaning puke off the walls at 4:00 a.m.," wrote one. "It's official: we've been hit by the plague," said another. "Our turn! Can you wash pillows?" asked someone else. A text message at 5:30 suggested that Isaac's entire school might need to close for lack of staff, and because his whole class had been "wiped out" by this bug.
Fortunately, it does not seem to be a particularly virulent strain. Certainly nothing worthy of Gwyneth Paltrow's hemorrhagic fever, seizure, and death scene in Contagion or Patrick Dempsey's in Outbreak, both of which could easily be set in Juneau (hopefully when the Legislature is in session). No one is bleeding from the eyeballs. In fact, I'm in that sick-kid purgatory where your kid can't go to school because he's been puking within the last 24 hours, but he is completely better and therefore begging to watch television and bouncing off the walls.
So far, the rest of our family has avoided contracting the latest "viral content," but escape is by no means guaranteed. Not knowing the incubation period of this virus, the rest of us are mere sitting ducks waiting to be struck with violent albeit relatively brief bouts of vom.
God speed, Juneau. God speed.