James Lileks
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It’s cold-and-flu season, so here are some answers to questions everyone has.

Q: How do I avoid getting the flu?

A: Get a shot. After touching public surfaces such as restroom doorknobs, avoid placing your fingers in your eyes, nose and mouth. Keep everyone at arm’s length; brandishing a knife usually does the trick.

Q: When does flu season end?

A: There will be a five-minute blast on the tornado sirens in March to inform you of the precise date. It’s usually around 4 in the afternoon.

Q: When should I get a shot?

A: Experts say last week, because it takes a while for antibodies to develop. Of course, we secretly believe we’re immune the moment we get stuck, but it doesn’t work like that. The shot consists of tiny, weak flu particles, and your body takes a while to figure out how to fight them. By the time the real germs show up, your body has all the flu’s moves figured out. And the flu looks at the little vaccine particles and hisses, “Traitor, you sold us out.”

Q: Am I contagious even if I don’t feel bad yet?

A: Yes; you are “shedding” the virus, as they say.

Rub your clothing with a lint roller before leaving the house, wear a dark cloak, carry a smudge pot on a 6-foot pole to warn people you are infected and shout “Unclean!” every 30 seconds. (Doctors say every 10 seconds, but they always err on the side of caution.)

Q: Is this year’s strain really bad?

A: No, it’s really good! People report extra energy and renewed enthusiasm for life. Of course it’s bad — it’s the flu.

Its effect varies depending on your constitution, and which type of flu you get. The virus mutates from year to year, because nature is basically a 365/24/7 project devoted to making us worm food. Here, have a nice sunset to make you think I’m all pretty and benign! Meanwhile, I’ll be cooking up misery in duck intestines and scheduling the next earthquake.

Q: What color is this year’s flu?

A: It’s a mauve-puce-yellow plaid.

Q: What key is it in?

A: E minor. Last year’s flu was mostly crimson with purple stippling, and it was A minor; that’s why they have to change the vaccines.

Q: Seriously?

A: No, of course not, but you never know when some lazy student will copy stuff from your articles without thinking about whether it’s true, and then the teacher searches for them online and finds the original source.

Q: Where can I get my flu shot?

A: (Enabling hack stand-up comedian mode) The question ought to be where can’t you get one, am I right? They’re everywhere. You expect Redbox DVD rental machines to ask, “Would you like to add a flu shot for 99 cents?” and then drive a spike in your leg if you hit “yes.” Alas, it would be good for only 24 hours.

(Disabling hack mode) The above, of course, is ridiculous. There’s no way Redbox would dispense flu shots.

The machine would have to spray an antiseptic as well, and it obviously can’t, because when I returned the “Kingsman” DVD the other day, I asked if it would spray disinfectant on me because I felt soiled by watching the movie, and nothing happened.

On the other hand, you can get a flu shot at the grocery store, which is convenient. But then shouldn’t we be able to get broccoli at the doctor’s office?

Q: What is the difference between flu flu and stomach flu?

A: There’s no such thing as stomach flu.

Influenza is Latin for lung crud; it is a respiratory ailment. What most people call “stomach flu” is actually food poisoning, or some nasty gut bug such as the norovirus. It really should be called the rovirus, so you could say, “No rovirus, please!”

Sorry; my hack comedian mode must be stuck on. I tried calling the IT help desk, but no one answered.

Must be flu season in India, too.

james.lileks@startribune.com 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks facebook.com/james.lileks