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I honestly don’t know what to think about everything I’m hearing about this supposed “epidemic” of flu.
I know someone who absolutely refuses to get a flu shot, because her husband is so distrustful, that he believes the shots could be harmful in some way. I won’t go in to all the details here, but “conspiracy theory” comes to mind when I talk with him.
I don’t go quite that far, although I am not buying the hype – much like I seldom buy the hype for many things that we are told we should get excited about.
I have my own conspiracy theory here, but it has more to do with profit-making of certain businesses, than evil intentions against the American population.
When less than 50 percent of the population gets the shot (it was 37 percent by mid-November) and suddenly there’s a major push for all of us to get vaccinated because there is an epidemic, I get a little suspicious. And then a week after that push for vaccination comes, we’re suddenly told there’s a shortage? That gets me even more suspicious. What – you’re not selling enough doses? Because if you say there’s a shortage, what happens? Everybody wants to “stock up.”
I get that there are a lot of people who are sick right now – some of them are quite ill. Just like we have every winter. And I know the flu is there, just like it is every year. But I’m around a lot of people every week, and I don’t think I have run into anyone with the “true influenza.” My kids are in school, and they are not coming home talking about how many kids are sick or not in school. Frankly – I have seen worse years with them in school.
Like I said – lots of people are sick, with any number of nasty and potent viruses. But they don’t seem to be sick with the flu. Palmer was sick in December with “flu like” symptoms. I took him to the doctor, and while they also checked for Strep Throat, which he did not have, it was not flu. The doctor said it was the same virus that they had been seeing. And when I got the exact same thing a week later – I knew it wasn’t the flu.
If you have ever had the true flu, there is no mistaking it. It comes on like gangbusters, you feel like you have been hit by a truck and you are convinced that you are going to die. Seriously. I have had influenza once as an adult, and I will never forget it. You know how we go around when we’re sick and say, “I think I have a touch of the flu (cough, cough)?” No! If you can stand upright and say that, you don’t have the flu!
In the interest of full disclosure, I did not get the flu shot this year, and neither did my kids (don’t judge me). Sometimes I get a flu shot, but I haven’t in a couple of years. I try to get them for the boys, though, but it didn’t work out that way this year. Scot always gets one. I just personally have a problem with infecting myself on the off chance it might protect me against the strain of illness that might circulate. But that’s just me (again, don’t judge me).
In the last couple of weeks, like everyone, I have been following the information coming out about this year’s flu season. My inbox is overflowing with press releases from entities with tips and warnings about the flu.
I have seen the widespread nature of the flu and what the CDC refers to as ILI – influenza like illness. I had even heard that in Pennsylvania, Berks is (or was) one of the hardest hit areas.
On Thursday night I admit to coming home and wondering if I should get everyone to the nearest clinic ASAP for a shot. But then I took a deep breath.
On Friday, I called the school districts within the Southern Berks News coverage area. I thought I would find out how absenteeism has been, and whether the schools are taking extra precautions – sanitizing the schools and so on. With my boys in the Exeter School district, I knew that if things were starting to get interesting, then as a parent, I would have heard from the district. None of the districts have noticed absenteeism that is outside normal levels at this point.
On Saturday, I had to take Scot to a walk-in clinic for a problem he’s having with his hand. He didn’t call his primary care physician during the week, because he just assumed he wouldn’t be able to get in. We expected to find a crowd, all hacking and sniffling. What did we find? We were the only people there.
Here’s what has bothered me about some of the information that is out there for all of us to digest. This year’s statistics are being compared to last year, and even to the year before. But last year, do you remember how the big story was – the nearly non-existent flu season?
So we’re not comparing apples to apples here. Saying an area had X number of documented cases last year, but is X% above that point already this season is misleading at best.
Numbers being shared should be comparing similar seasons. Otherwise, it’s just inflammatory.
Hospitals are reporting higher numbers of people coming to emergency rooms with influenza like illness. Up over last year? No surprise there, since there wasn’t really a flu season last year. But how many of those people who are visiting the emergency rooms are doing so because they have no other options for health care? As the number of long-term unemployed Americans continues to go up (they are there, even if they’re not being counted or talked about), how many of them are turning to emergency rooms because they have lost their health insurance and access to a primary care physician?
I don’t make light of the seriousness of influenza. Make no mistake that it can be a killer. In this era of travel and mass transit, the potential is there for the illness to spread rapidly and across distances. People are hospitalized and die from the flu every year.
Awareness about the illness? Absolutely! Precautions? Of course! Education about how to prevent the spread? Bring it on! Scaring us with data that compares apples with watermelons? Not necessary!
I will do my part not to catch or spread the germs this year. I will continue to wash my hands frequently during the day and always after touching something someone else has touched (with a NON anti-bacterial soap, thank-you), I will keep my hands away from my face – and continue to preach to my boys that they do the same. And I’ll think about getting the vaccine next year.