Flu

February 27, 2021

I came across an article from the associated press about the Flu.  While February usually finds us at the height of Flu season, that is not the case this year.  Instead, it has virtually disappeared in the US.  Experts provided two possible explanations.  The first is the masks, social distancing, and virtual schooling put in place for covid-19 helped in staving off the flu, and the push to get people vaccinated for flu and the reduced travel added to the decline.  The other possible explanation is the coronavirus pushed out the flu and cold viruses that are more common in the fall and winter.  That follows the pattern seen when certain strains of flu predominate over others.  Areas as distant as Maine Medical Center in Portland and Oregon’s Salem Hospital have not recorded a single case of flu.  Flu has long been the nation’s most infectious disease, blamed for 600-800,000 hospitalizations and 50-60,000 deaths annually.

Since I turned 65 my doctor told me getting a flu shot was something I needed to add to my list of required vaccinations.  This came at a time when the pandemic was ramping up and the Doctor’s Office did not have the shot.  My pharmacy refused to provide one because of “the covid issue.”  Instead, I went to an emergency clinic.  When the nurse finally came to my car she asked if I was allergic to the vaccine.  When I responded that I had never had one, she stopped and stared, “Really?” I had not been around anyone vulnerable and had “heard stories” about the shot giving you the flu. It seemed easier to avoid the hassle and not get a shot. I got my flu shot and had no adverse effects. Go figure.

While we may have been spared the 50,000 deaths from the flu, the 29 million cases and over 523,000 deaths from covid-19 have more than made up for them.  Six states have had over 1,000,000 infections and seven have had over 20,000 deaths.  As high as those numbers are, the 1918 influenza pandemic was deadlier.  The disease ravaged the world from February 1918 to April 1920.  It infected 500 million people, or about a third of the world’s population, in four successive waves.  The death toll is estimated between 20 to 50 million, although some say it may have been as high as 100 million.  Pathologists have suggested the virus originated in North America, but others blame the Chinese laborers brought to the front lines of World War I.  The disease spread globally as soldiers returned to their own countries.

Thoughts:  It seems there are a lot of people who are taking the same approach to precautions around coronavirus that I took toward the flu shot.  I am not vulnerable so why should I care?  While not vulnerable themselves, their grandparents, and other loved ones they met during the holidays were.  This created super spreader events after every holiday this winter.  Now that the vaccine is available, we have learned of people being wary of getting the shot because the have “heard stories” about its effects.  The known effect of the vaccine is even if you contract the virus, you are unlikely to go to the hospital and will not die.  It seems it might be easier to avoid the hassle and get a shot.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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