Science is winning the war against the common cold. A new nasal spray prevents infection by rhinoviruses, so named because they make you feel like a rhinoceros, not to mention look like one.

The rhinoviruses are the commonest of all the 200 viruses that cause colds, and if you are exposed to them the spray stops them 78 percent of the time, according to two independent studies published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Do you understand what this means? For the first time since the invention of sneezing, if somebody in your family gets a cold you won't all have to share. We are on the threshold of conquering the cold forever.

I can't stand it.

How am I going to call in sick?

This is the worst thing to hit the world of work since timecards. Abolish the cold? What will we do with all the drawer space if we get rid of our cold equipment?

What are we all going to talk about in the elevator?

You can write the script yourself.

SMITH: (sneezes).

JONES: Got the bug, uh?

SMITH: Just a code (blows nose).

BROWN: It's something going around.

JOHNSON: Yeah, it's all over town. My kid's school --

WHITE: You should stay home.

SMITH: Aaah. It's dot bad. It's just -- AAAOOOOUUUGGG- AAHHH -- a code.

Do you realize even the weekends aren't safe anymore? Somebody invites you at the last minute to a dumb cocktail party, and with-out a second thought you say, "Gee, I'm sorry, it sounds wonderful but I've got this terrible cold . . ."

Now they'll come right back with, "Oh that's all right, we'll just spray with alpha-2 interferon." And you'll have to go.

And if there is anything more boring than going to a cocktail party with a cold, it is going to a cocktail party with a fake cold.

I mean, this is a national disaster. What will happen to all those whining complainers on TV with the cough and the sneeze and the runny nose and the pitiful expression? What a bunch of kvetchers. Now they will be out of a job. There will be nothing but blank space between the game shows. The cold will become history. You can give your Vicks VapoRub to the Smithsonian.

Before you know it we will have an attack of nostalgia. They will bring back that pioneering movie, "The Sneeze," with Fred Ott. James Michener will write a historical novel about the cold, describing for generations to come exactly what it was like:

"The first sign was, he had felt really great all that day. His reflexes were extra quick, his mind alert. He accomplished more on the job than he had all week.

"Then the first sneeze. Must have been the dust, he told himself. But he sneezed a second time. And a third. And a fourth. And a fifth. And a sixth.

"His nose began to run. His throat started to tickle . . . And a seventh. And an eighth. And a ninth. Uh-oh, he thought. He took pills, but it was no use. Now the throat was actually sore and the nose was dripping steadily . . . And a tenth. And an eleventh . . .

"By the next day his head felt as if a quart of water was sloshing around inside. Every time he tilted his head it tried to lie down on the nearest flat surface. The skin around his nose was raw. He couldn't taste or smell a thing. Disgusting slippery stuff slid down the back of his throat . . ."

And on through the classic stages of gunk and goober. At last, just as the virulence fades and the Kleenex supply stabilizes, the hero says:

"I think it's going down into my chest."

Which leaves us with the age-old question, When does a cold stop being a cold and turn into something else?

Now that I think of it, nobody I know has just a simple cold anymore. "It's a virus," they tell me. "It's a flu bug." It attacks the stomach, the bowels, the joints, the lungs. It is major. It is so major it has a title: Asian flu, swine flu, influenza.

If you play your cards right, you can stay home for two weeks instead of two days.

Bring on your rhinovirus spray. You can't touch me. I've got the flu.