There is no way around it, I feel horrible. I caught the flu, despite my efforts of proper hand washing and getting my annual flu vaccination. What's worse is my 5-month-old daughter got a touch of it too. She never had a fever, but just congestion and this awful hacking cough. Her illness may be just a little cold, but not me. I had a full-blown, good old-fasioned flu, complete with fever, aches, sour throat and, later, a dose of congestion for good measure. I was out of work for several days. I couldn't move from my bed. Everything hurt. This season though, I'm hardly alone.
As soon as I returned to work, five other co-workers were down and out for the count. So, what do we do in the newsroom? A story about it. I talked to our local health department and this flu outbreak is hitting the entire nation. Dr. Harry Tweel, the director of our health department, told me for the first time in 16 years, the viral experts missed the mark on the vaccine this year. He said that is why so many people are getting the flu, even if they've had the vaccine. The vaccine is never a 100 percent guarantee you won't get the flu. But this year, the vaccine is providing people only 40 percent protection. And while this is nothing like a pandemic, this outbreak is dangerous, especially for people with weak immune systems.
One of our local hospitals has had almost 600 people report to its emergency department in the past two weeks. Of those 600, nearly 200 tested positive for the flu. Unless you have an infection along with the flu, most doctors are not giving antibiotic treatment. Since flu is a viral problem, the antiobiotics wouldn't do any good anyway. The best thing to do is let it run it's course. Treat the fever, drink plenty of fluids and rest. Also, STAY HOME, so you don't keep passing this miserable bug around because it is airborne and highly contagious.
I think it's easy to think of the flu as just an annoying illness that keeps us bed-ridden for a few days. But the fact is that 36,000 people die each year in the US from influenza and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized because of complications from the flu. The complications include bacterial pneumonia and dehydration. The virus can even worsen chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Children with asthma or allergies need to be watched closely if they get the flu too. Some complications they could have include sinus problems and ear infections.
So far, my daughter's problems are just congestion and cough. I keep saline drops in her nose and try to suction out as much mucus as I can so it doesn't settle in her lungs and ears. I've been successful so far. I'm finally starting to feel better myself. I honestly can't remember the last time I have had the flu; it's definitely been years and I sure don't want it anytime soon again. My doctor said even though the vaccine wasn't as effective as in years past, I should continue to get a flu shot. He said the fact that I had one kept me from being sick longer (the flu can set you back a good 7 to 10 days or longer). Luckily for me, I was feeling better after four days. I don't fault the viral experts. I know they work on the vaccine months in advance of flu season and go with their best educated guess as to which strains will be dominant. They rarely get it wrong. And, even though it's off this year, I'd still take 40 percent protection any day compared to zero.
Published On: March 10, 2008