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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Whether you're into football, baseball, hockey or hoops, fantasy sports have taken off in a big way. They generate almost $2 billion a year. Commentator Laura Lorson is big on fantasy leagues, just not so much with the sports.

LAURA LORSON, BYLINE: Another football season is winding down, college basketball is uninteresting until the tournament, pro basketball is, you know, whatever. And it'll be a while before pitchers and catchers show up for spring training. But fortunately for all of us, we are smack in the middle of cold and flu season. And the action in my Cold and Flu Fantasy League is really heating up. I pore over issues of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report like it's a racing form. I'm trolling the Internet for hints on what the up-and-comer viruses might be from the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine.

And everybody knows about WebMD, which has undeniably solid information and background, but my secret weapon in drafting the real sleeper virus picks? Telehealth Ontario. The Canadians rarely steer you wrong. Basically, you're looking to pick up under-the-radar illnesses. Take coronavirus: causes the common cold. Undeniably solid, the Tom Brady of communicable disease, eventual Hall of Famer, total game-day player. You want to start coronavirus every week.

But everybody knows about coronavirus. So what you really want to look for is the solid performer the fair weather fans haven't necessarily heard of, maybe has kind of mediocre jersey sales, but is super contagious and hard to stop. Last year, I pinned a lot of my strategy on rotavirus, which totally fit that profile. I have a friend who works in a day care center, and she gave me the tip. I also went ahead and drafted Listeria because I had heard someplace that USDA funding was under attack. Kind of a mediocre pick, actually.

My coworker, though, who drafted E. coli, totally cleaned up, but then he had a higher salary cap than I did. I'm not having a great season, but it ain't over till it's over. The weather could get worse. More people could be staying indoors, sneezing on each other. I got stuck with diphtheria in a really boneheaded trade I made earlier this year, but I had a hunch a few weeks ago and I picked up pertussis on waivers since the two kind of go together, what with all these people refusing to get their kids immunized.

I also have kind of a big stake in flu, which is always risky. It's either feast or famine with flu. It either has a monster season or it's a total bust. I drafted AH1N1, which historically has had absolutely mind-blowing statistics, but I haven't started him this year. Good to know he's on the bench, though. When the virus strain that started the 1918 pandemic takes the field, people sit up and take notice. At least, people at the CDC do. Anyway, if you could do me a favor, I'd really appreciate it if you could be a little more lax about hand washing here in the next couple of weeks.

If I'm going to win this league, I'm going to need your help. So go on, go to work with your sniffles and your productive cough. Your boss and your co-workers will think you're really dedicated, and I, quite frankly, could use the points. Winning this year's Cold and Flu Fantasy League may not have quite the cache of winning at fantasy football or Rotisserie League Baseball, but it would really be a confidence booster for me this coming spring, when I'm getting my Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show bracket picks together during Mutt Madness.

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BLOCK: Laura Lorson is thinking about starting a "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" fantasy league at her home in Perry, Kansas.

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