Diseased neckties proving both comical and educational

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SALT LAKE CITY -- If you haven't yet picked up the swine flu virus, how would you like to get it now without getting sick? A necktie company is making that possible.

Now that worries about H1N1 are fading at least this season, maybe we can lighten up a bit with a different view of the virus, perhaps as a digital image making up the design on a man's necktie.

Dr. Stephan Alder of the University of Utah's department of Family and Preventative Medicine has one. "I was told by somebody who used to be a very good friend that I'm a public health geek for wearing this," he said.

If so, they're lots of others tying the same knot. It's not just this one, but many others all imaging the actual bugs as they appear under a microscope: influenza, cholera, measles, giardia, chicken pox and more.

What you've had, or never had, or never hope to have, are all on these ties made by a Los Angeles company founded by Dr. Roger Freeman. The idea originated years ago here in Salt Lake City. In fact, designer Darren Nelson still works in partnership with Freeman designing the ties.

"Most of our conversations are through e-mail. Every once in a while we pick up the phone, dig down on detail or something, but most everything is just through the e-mail," Nelson said.

Funny? Yes! But Infectious Awareables, as they're called, are also educational. "We don't just want a tie that just sits on somebody's shirt and nobody really pays any attention to. We want a tie that someone actually asks questions about. ‘What is that?'" Nelson said.

On the back of Alder's tie is a description of H1N1 and the 1918 Pandemic, plus preventive measures.

So go ahead. After all, when will you ever be able to safely say, "I got West Nile Virus here as a gift."?

Freeman and Nelson are now working on a tie that will image the actual H1N1 strain, the mutation that led to our current outbreak of influenza.

E-mail: eyeates@ksl.com


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