Out sick today: If it's seal flu, will I be able to swim better?

Out sick today: If it's seal flu, will I be able to swim better?
Cute, but – oh – so virusy. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

I'm home sick today. Achy, sore throat, mucus, the whole shebang.

I just hope it's not seal flu.

Yes, I just wrote seal flu. No, I'm not making that up. From the makers of bird flu, swine flu and beaver fever comes the new, hip animal flu to potentially hit American shores: Seal flu.

(Oops. Sources tell me there is no such thing as beaver fever. That's Bieber fever. My apologies to all zero teenage girls who read this column.)

According to an article on WebMD (motto: Causing mass hypochondria since 1996) – pleasantly titled "Seal Flu: Next Pandemic Threat?" – "a new and virulent subtype of flu bug has emerged among harbor seals in New England, researchers report."

This "mutant flu bug transmitted to the seals by sea birds" has been going all orca on the seals, killing 162 of the pinnipeds during a four-month period, according to the article.

The best part comes a little further in the story:

"An additional concern is the potential [animal-to-human] threat that this virus poses, as it has already acquired mutations ... that are often, though not exclusively, regarded as prerequisites for pandemic spread," Lipkin and colleagues note in an article published in mBio, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Prerequisites for pandemic spread? Well, we all know what that means. Pandemic spread is trying to get past college algebra so it can take calculus. And once pandemic spread can do advanced-level math, all bets are off for humans.

So, now I suppose we have to put seals on the lists of animals to worry about. Cobras, grizzly bears and baby seals, oh my! Which is a shame because baby seals are just about one of the cutest things on the planet. Seriously, check out this video:

Oh my gosh, how adorable was that video?

Unfortunately, we now know that baby seals wants to adorably infect you with a potentially deadly disease.

If humans were your typical predator, this wouldn't be a problem. Unlike humans, your typical predator does not rate baby animals on a sliding scale of cuteness, but rather a sliding scale of deliciousness. And according to orcas in the know, baby seals are near the top of that scale. However I – as well as many other humans – would rather be infected by a baby seal than to hurt it.

What does this mean? The animals have finally figured us out.

After trying to infect us with flu through birds and swine – better known as chicken and bacon – they've turned to an animal most of us don't typically eat to get rid of us. Soon, they will send their legions of baby seals to all corners of the planet to infect those who invariable can't resist the urge to pick them up and hug them. It's a diabolical and cuddly plan, to be sure.

The WebMd article, of course, goes on to conclude that seal flu probably won't pose much risk to humans, making the animals' human-eliminating plan mostly moot.

But if it means I get to hug a baby seal, I hope they carry through with it anyway.

• Joe Grace is a writer and  journalist who lives in Chicago with his wife. Write to him at joewriter81@gmail.com.

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