Paranoia reigns.

I’m turning off light switches with my elbow.

Wearing gloves when I go into stores.

Opening doors with the sleeve of my shirt.

And keeping a hefty supply of hand sanitizer in my car, on my desk and in my purse.

Everywhere I turn, people are wheezing, coughing, hacking and sneezing.

It’s the plague, I’m sure of it.

When I encounter friends and colleagues who normally look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed but have tiny eyes and a frown on their faces, I run for cover.

I think you know what I’m talking about.

It’s the dreaded flu or cold or whatever it is that has descended upon central Maine.

People are at work one minute and flat in bed the next.

Some have it for a week or two; my husband, three.

He’s had a bad year, poor fellow.

In October, he broke his shoulder. In November, he got one strain of this foolish bug, and in December, just when we thought he was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, he got another.

It was Christmas Eve and 50 of us were at our annual family gathering. One child didn’t feel well on his way to the party, and it was too late to take him home.

We all felt so sorry for him.

What a wonderful time everyone had, until two days later, that is.

My husband got sick, then my sister, my mother, brother, niece, nephew-in-law, and on and on.

Our phone was ringing every five minutes with someone reporting another family member down.

Welcome to central Maine — the place everyone loves to visit — and where all the airplanes in the world have presented us with a big fat bug on a silver platter.

We surmise the travelers are the culprits, or the kids, who are bringing it home from school. Or does it ride on people’s coattails and float around in the air, waiting to strike?

A few days ago, I looked at my husband and smiled, assuring him his siege with this thing was nearing an end.

No sooner had I said that than he ran to the bathroom. Again, and again, and again.

Where did this come from? He hasn’t been in the presence of a sick person lately. He must have eaten something bad, we concluded.

The first day went by, with no relief. The second day, in the evening, we decided this wasn’t food poisoning.

So I called my mother, a retired nurse, who always knows what to do.

Get some anti-you-know-what stuff, and ply him with clear liquids, such as apple juice and ginger ale so he doesn’t get dehydrated, she advised.

I ran to the drugstore and got the goods. The bottle of stuff was nearly depleted by bedtime.

As I headed out the door the next morning, I told him to drink clear liquids and not eat anything.

“Put him on the brat diet,” my friend, Laura, told me later at the gym.

The what?

“B-R-A-T. Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Works like a charm.”

When I got to the office, I called Phil to inform him of this new cure.

Too busy to check on him during the day, I arrived home many hours later.

“May I please eat something now?” he asked. “I’m starving.”

He had taken my directive not to eat literally.

I advised him to try something light, like dry toast and apple juice.

He chose a fried egg on toast.

Minutes ticked by as we waited with bated breath.

A couple of hours later, we knew we were on safe turf. It was over.

So take heart, all you hackers, sneezers and runners: There is an end to all this.

But wait a minute. My throat feels a little scratchy just now. What is … I dare not say it.

Arrrgh.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 25 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]