By Songyi Zhang
I have my first cold since my arrival in America ten months ago! I joked with my friends I couldn’t go back to China this summer because if I did, I would be considered a Swine Flu virus carrier.
I remember last summer while H1N1 epidemic ran rampant around the world, the Chinese government authorities announced that passengers from all North American flights were required to have a special medical checkup upon their arrival at all customs entrances. So a number of Chinese students didn’t return home during the summer. I felt lucky for myself that I was going to North America but not returning home. But I was apprehensive of my landing in Chicago. Would it take me a long time to go through the same protocol to go through the flu scan on the US side? Did I bring sufficient medical papers to prove my healthy status? I certainly didn’t want to be the odd one in the line.
Unlike at the China Customs where passengers, foreign visitors and Chinese nationals, wore masks as if they were entering a plague zone, the US Customs was medically undefended. I didn’t see one person who was about to enter the country wearing a mask. I guess if they did, they must be more likely to be thought of a terrorist than a flu patient. I didn’t need to go through any body temperature devices or health questioning. There were not any flyers or brochures at the customs for arriving passengers on how to prevent the H1N1 epidemic. I was surprised at first, thinking of a dozen twelve-ply white masks in my backpack that I was prepared to wear as soon as I landed in America. I didn’t wear any masks as I really didn’t want to be the odd one in the line.
Last year I heard little about the H1N1 news through the American media. I didn’t know if that was the good news or the bad news. In China, there would be a daily or even hourly news update on the epidemic casualty. All of a sudden I felt I was so secure since no news was good news until I called my family in China, one of their many questions was whether the H1N1 flu was serious where I was. As soon as I told them I didn’t keep track with the case number, they would report back to me. Gosh! How much have I missed out? Was this the American style of news censorship?
At home in China whenever I had a cold I would turn to Tylenol for help. Thank God for this internationally well-known brand. I told a friend and he took me to the drugstore and pointed me to the right shelf where there were a dozen kinds of Tylenol manufactured by various pharmaceutics. Oh, not now, I thought, I can’t make my choice when I was woozy and sniffling and suffering from a skull-rocking headache. My friend helped me to pick up the powerful Sudafed nighttime caplets in lieu of Tylenol. After taking two tablets as the instruction said, I was knocked out faster than if I had consumed a New Orleans’ Hand Grenade.
Fortunately, my sinuses cleared up the next day.