Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guess I Got the Flu or "What the Heck Hit Me?"

The evening television news for the past week has been dominated by stories and stats regarding the current flu epidemic.

Some professionals hesitate to use the word "epidemic" but that seems to adequately represent the current wave of illness being experienced throughout most of the continental U.S. Schools are reporting high numbers of absences among students and teachers alike. Businesses are short-handed. It's a problem impacting life from coast to coast.

The best defense against the flu appears to be a good offense, which includes hand washing, use of disinfectant sprays and other cleaning products. I can't imagine how this applies to living in a large city. I lived in large cities long enough to recognize that areas such as workroom kitchens and public bathrooms are incredibly dirty -- not so much from intentional neglect as from sheer numbers of traffic. Hands on doorknobs, fingers on keyboards, oh my. It has to be nearly impossible to defeat the production of germs in such locations.

But speaking on behalf of folks living in more-or-less normalcy, we should be able to weather the storm a bit better. However, that doesn't seem to make any difference. Folks in small towns and suburbs are getting sick, too.

Discussions of the flu include the inevitable plea to get a flu shot. I would have to agree. Shots are available at many locations, including chain pharmacies and medical providers' offices. The cost is reasonable and often free to senior citizens on Medicare. Some locales around the country have even made shots available at no charge. Despite reported low supplies of vaccine at certain locations, neighboring facilities have helped keep the vaccine available to those who want to get it.

Something hit me hard about 14 days ago. At first, I thought it was an allergy-fest, then thought maybe a cold. But the darned thing hung on until a couple of days ago when I began to feel like myself again. Oddly, I GOT a flu shot in September, so at first it never occurred to me that I might have the flu. Now the reporters are announcing that this year's vaccine is a good match for the variety of flu in circulation this year, but that still about 32% of all people who get the vaccine will still get the flu or at least a somewhat diminished case.

Guess that means that I had a "touch" of the flu, as we used to say. Boy, that was some touch. When a chore such as getting out of bed seems overpowering, something is wrong. One person interviewed on the nightly news last night was a school teacher who said that she got a flu shot and still got sick. She added it was one of the worst illnesses she has had in some time. 
People need to do a few things to help wrestle this flu-bug to the ground.

1. Pay attention. If you feel bad, recognize the symptoms and stay home. People with whom you interact at home or at work do not want your germs.

2. Staying home is not a sign of weakness. If you feel as bad as I did, the last thing you want is to be sitting at a desk or commuting on a train/bus/car to get to anywhere. I even avoided going to the doctor once I was sure it was likely the flu because the idea of getting dressed and leaving the house were insurmountable.

3. Clean up after yourself. Don't leave the floor littered with used tissues and other germ-laden debris. Wash your hands before you handle the remote control, type on the keyboard or touch any food surfaces in the kitchen. Stop being selfish and think about the germs you are likely spreading.

4. Encourage others in your family who might be feeling like they are "coming down" with something. They may have picked up their bug from you in the first place. Offer to help them get well by suggesting things that might help ease their discomfort, chicken soup for instance.

One day soon, Spring will arrive and the flu will fade. But perhaps some of these healthy habits will linger and become a permanent part of our daily routine.

Stay well.

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