Feeling down with the flu? Get well soon, you big sissy! According to a recent study at the University of Sussex, the worst symptoms of the flu virus may not be symptoms of the virus at all – feeling achy, tired, worn out and generally down seem to be all in the minds of most patients. In other words, the reason you feel sick is not that you are sick. Though that’s a contributing factor, your idstinctly lacking sense of well-being stems from the fact that that you have an idea of how ‘sick’ is supposed to feel and you decide that you, too must feel sick. This is nothing but the quitter talk of a fevered brain!

But worry not – even if your brain thinks it is sicker than it really is, it is also very easy to make your brain think it is getting better due to the consumption of sugar pills, as demonstrated by a study last year that showed that placebos have inexplicably become about 20% more effective in the last two decades of clinical trials. The only scientific explanation or this is that your brain is stupid, and easily fooled! And vain, as not only does your brain confuse placebos with actual real medicine, it even thinks that a more expensive placebo will be more effective medicine, making you feel better accordingly.

For those of you who are starting to think that perhaps our brains and immune systems are simply more complex and daunting than we can probably ever hope to understand… yeah, pretty much.

But look on the bright side – this is a thing that exists!

That’s something, right?

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The Evergreen State has H1N1 flu all over the damned place! Washington State University saw as many as 2,500 cases of…something. Something we’re not going to finish testing in every case.But for the sake of argument, let’s just call it swine flu.

And this weekend, the biggest gamer convention on the west coast turned into a plague house, with PAX attendees coming down with the flu just in time to get on a plane and spread it to a town near you.

For those of you who are playing the ‘Swine Flu Freakout Game’ at home, the time to panic is… now!

In a staggering display of timeliness, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have taken the first steps toward the development of a new way of treating influenza. Current flu treatments battle the virus by hobbling the neuriminidase, the N in the H1N1 flu virus, impairing it’s ability to leave infected cells and further replicate itself.

But they don’t do much about the H – that’s hemmaglutinnin, the protein that allows flu viruses to bind to cells in the nose, throat and lungs, enter them and infect them. If Robert Linhardt and his team continue having success in their research, that might not be true much longer. Using techniques from the young science of “click chemistry” the team has created anti-viral agents that look similar to the sialic acid that hemmaglutinin binds to on cell surfaces. The idea is that the virus will be fooled into attaching to the anti-viral agent rather than actual cells, rendering it impotent and unable to effectively reproduce and continuing infecting further cells. 

The study is in it’s inception for now, and likely won’t hit markets for some time. But this research marks a fascinating step forward in treating influenza, and a piece of recently rare good news about the flu.

And it wasn’t the only positive development this week, which also demonstrated that surgical masks may actually be an effective countermeasure to spreading influenza, as well as THE fashion statement of the early 21st century. 

And if that’s not enough good new for you, here’s a video of a guy catching ducklings as they follow their mother off the ledge they’ve been nested on. IOf you can’t enjoy that, I don’t know what to tell you.