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A nasty case of ‘J-fever’



There’s a pollen epidemic round here. Dozens of itchy-eyed snifflers are leaving consultations each day clutching an FP10 for the winning triad of eye drops, a nasal spray, and the apparent wonderdrug fexofenadine.

I’ve been suffering myself and keep having paroxysms of aggressive sneezing. My nose has produced a steady stream of clear discharge for the last five hours, but my symptoms seem immune to the legendary fexo. 

In hindsight, there’s a direct correlation between exposure to a specific allergen and an attack of uncontrollable nasal incontinence. This same trigger also makes me nauseas, anxious, emotionally labile and occasionally violent.

The penny dropped when I checked Pulse’s website today. I saw Jeremy Hunt’s angular face, with its demonic stare and frontal quiff. Moving down, there’s the Tory blue tie and ironic NHS lapel-pin. My nose started twitching and I let out a rambunctious gesundheit.

It suddenly made sense: this is not seasonal allergic rhinitis. This is a nasty case of J-fever. 

I am allergic to Jeremy Hunt – and there are thousands of others like me. J-fever is afflicting GPs nationwide; his image, his voice, even his written word – they’re all potent allergens. Exposed colleagues are itching and bitching, blogging, commenting, petitioning, stewing and fuming, everywhere. 

The J-allergen was discovered in Oxford in the mid-1980s where it caused mild pruritus to a number of students who were exposed during a quiz night at Magdalen College.

It spread to Japan a few years later, causing hives in fellow teachers at Tokyo’s International Language School.

Then a particularly virulent J-strain attacked Westminster in the 2000s and since 2012, it’s been rife, causing havoc in hospitals and surgeries throughout the UK.

As recently as last week, tissue supplies at a London practice were exhausted when staff suffered the ill-effects of prolonged exposure. Even now, days afterwards, they continue to experience dry skin and postnasal drip.

Only two options seem open to victims of J-fever. Flooding, or constant exposure, will eventually render sufferers immune, but irreparably damaged. They will feel beaten, exhausted and depressed, but the rash will fade.

Alternatively, they must go cold turkey and may need to emigrate. J-fever did hit Japan, but it’ll never reach Australia.     

Dr Tom Gillham is a GP in Hertfordshire and specialty doctor in A&E. You can follow him @tjgillham.