Two months ago, Joshua Brown packed up his New York apartment and flew to Tokyo. He speaks Japanese and decided to try his luck as a singer and model over there, figuring a 6-foot-5-inch white guy gets considerably more notice in a land of 5-foot-5 Asians. What he didn't plan for was the immediate attention he got on arrival.
After a layover in Los Angeles, he began the 11-hour plane ride. "The last five hours of the trip, I started to feel really ill," says Brown. "I was watching 'Watchmen,' so at first I thought it was just giving me a really bad headache, because it's the worst movie ever. But then my whole neck and body began to ache."
Find out what happens when Joshua Brown ends up in a Japanese H1N1 quarantine
, after the jump.
After landing in Japan and driving an hour to his apartment, Brown's head began to get worse and his ears wouldn't pop. All of his energy felt completely drained. He walked to the grocery store to get cold medicine and food. What is usually a 10-minute walk took over an hour.
"The next morning just to get from my bed to my computer, which is a foot away, was a huge effort. I realized something was really wrong," he remembers. "They had given us these cards on the plane that listed possible swine flu symptoms. I read it again and knew I had it. So I called the hotline and they put me through to a hospital."
While Joshua's Japanese is good, he hasn't learned most of the medical jargon. What he could grasp, however, was that the hotline operator sounded concerned. They told him to get into a taxi immediately, keep the window rolled up, don't take the public transportation, and get to the hospital. When he arrived at the hospital, a security guard met him and asked, "Are you Joshua Brown?"
The whole hospital had been placed on alert. They buzzed around as if he were Godzilla. Wait, that sounds racially insensitive. They buzzed around as if he were mini-Godzilla. "They hustled me into this quarantine tent, a huge white moon-bounce-looking thing. I felt like the monkey in 'Outbreak
,'" explains Brown. "Each time someone would come in, there would be this grand display of them unzipping this area, and then people disinfecting the other side."
Staff asked detailed questions about everywhere Brown had been, trying to estimate how many people he may have infected. They took saliva swabs and nasal swabs, which were passed through a glove-and-hole combo built into the side of the moon-bounce. Each time, the people on the other side would furiously disinfect the area.
"I thought I was going to die, the way they were acting," Brown says.
A few hours later, the results were coming back as inconclusive. It would take another six hours to run more tests, so they gave him a powder to reduce his fever, told him to wear a mask and go home. All that buildup for nothing. "The next day they called me," says Brown. "The guy sounded a little freaked out. He spoke with these long pauses. 'You have ... the flu ... the swine flu.' The guy was so dramatic. I asked what that meant. He said I couldn't leave the house for a week without a mask."
Brown had to keep a detailed log of his body temperature and how he felt. He took some medicine and recovered over the next few days. Despite all that talk of pandemic and epidemic, what was supposed to be the next Spanish Influenza or Black Plague fizzled out with a yawn.
"The fourth day I still felt a little sick, but by the fifth day I was ready to go," he said. "They acted as if they were going to deport me, but I've had other flus worse than this. My throat and body ached, but I didn't even get sick to my stomach. Overall, it was maybe number three on the list of flus I've had."