The Selfish Germ

Con crud is one of those conditions that has been around for years, but is starting to become a serious issue. When there was only one convention a year, someone might decide to risk coming along, even if they were feeling a little bit under the weather, if it was the only annual chance to see their pen pals. And if a few people picked up a bug, well… who was to know who was really to blame?

But now, with expos and fan meetings all over the place and constant online communication, is there really any excuse? If you think you have a cold, would it kill you to stay away? If ten thousand people are coming through the doors at an event, and just one of them feels ill, it can spell disaster. It will only take some touchy-feely hellos, or a sneezy fan giving out free hugs, or one handshake too many with an enthusiastic distributor, and the disease can spread far and wide.

It used to be a bit of the old shared fan experience. “Oh dear,” you’d say, “I went to Somethingcon, and now I’ve got the lurgi. Guess I shouldn’t have snogged that girl dressed as Sailor Jupiter.” So maybe you’d feel a bit poorly for a few days, but that’s life, and these things happen to everyone. But modern con crud has taken on a newer, more virulent strain. It’s not just about accidentally infecting everyone in Sheffield with Beijing Flu (as a well-known anime industry figure did in 1993), or even about one person turning up with the sniffles. It’s about a dozen people turning up, each of them with entirely different sniffles, passing on a cocktail of powerful germs to a bunch of fellow anime fans who are already weakened by a weekend of running around, fast food and sleep deprivation.

A modest proposal: wash your hands. Seriously. A sizeable percentage of all colds and flus can be held off simply by washing your hands five times a day. But if you really think you might be coming down with something, do everyone a favour and DON’T COME. Maybe conventions might even consider a reward/refund scheme for ill attendees, to make it viable for someone to do other fans a favour by not showing up.

It’s not just about the fans, it’s about the guests and the anime companies. If you shake hands with a thousand fans, and a bunch of them give you their individual con cruds, it can put you out for over a fortnight. That’s eighty man-hours of anime distributor time that won’t get done. That’s anime unreleased, duplicators unchased, adverts unplaced. The anime business is still perilously small – perilous because if UK anime is now in the hands of just twelve people, and they all come to, say, London Expo in October, and they all come down with something straight afterwards… well, in real terms, that’s probably two or three DVDs whose release dates will slip.

It’s something to bear in mind. Coming to a convention or other anime event when you are feeling bad might not just be bad for your friends, it might be bad for anime itself.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO 55, 2008.

4 thoughts on “The Selfish Germ

  1. This reminds me of a time I went to a barbecue in Leicester with a few ‘net friends’ in 2003. We all came back the next day and though I was feeling rough anyway from pulling an all nighter, everyone had caught some illness because the host’s sister had carried it. Thankfully (or possibly unfortunately) I haven’t been to an Anime convention yet, a normal convention at the Excel Centre in London put me off travelling far due to time constraints.

  2. The germs I can take, after all I’m in and out of London on public transport every day, it’s the smell I live in fear of. Forget the anti bacterial, more deodorant!

  3. With the H1N1 pandemic ramping up this was very timely article. However I’ve found the the washing of entire bodies is more important advice to be taken up by some who show up at these cons. I haven’t been to a con since 2001, and I recently went to a small Japanese arts festival in Richmond, SW London, where anime and manga was the main theme, and where the UK premier of Ocean Waves, was being shown; the reason I attended. I rediscovered the reason why I stopped going to these things back in ’01.

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