It’s been a couple of weeks now, so I can finally bring myself to write about it. What, you ask? The dreaded Christmas flu of 2012. You see, while I’m a faculty member in a College of Public Health at a major research university, I somehow managed not to get my flu shot this year. Remarkably, however, the flu virus did not forget about me. After our flight home to Georgia was delayed from the 20th of December to the 24th because of winter storm “Draco”–the blizzard that brought snow, ice, and wind gusts in excess of 50 miles per hour–we finally made it to our destination, but not before traipsing through four different airports in Cedar Rapids, Detroit, Atlanta, and Jacksonville. Christmas was lovely, and then, the very next day, as we were out and about, I started to feel like I needed to sit down. The same day, that had devolved into a fever and needing to lie down, and it just got worse from there.
I spent the remainder of my time at home quite sick. My fever was consistently in the vicinity of 102.5, I had chills, my throat burned with every involuntary swallow, and I was just miserable. As I said, this all started on Wednesday, and after not being able to sleep through the night for several days, I made a trip to the doctor on Saturday morning. I was told that I had the flu and a possible sinus infection, and prescribed Tamiflu and antibiotics. I got them filled, and started taking them–even though I read that neither was particularly likely to be of much help this far along in the illness. Still, it seems that it was around this time that I slowly began to turn the corner. I was able to sleep through the night, but I was still very weak. When Monday morning rolled around and it was time to head to the airport and fly back to Iowa, I wasn’t entirely sure if I would be able to do it. Fortunately, with the help of one of those airport golf carts, I did.
I spent another couple of days recovering before going back to work, and I’ve only felt back to “full strength” for about a week now. The bottom line: The flu is a terrible illness, and I got through it relatively quickly, with milder symptoms than many people experience. Right now, the country is in the midst of a large-scale flu outbreak the likes of which hasn’t been seen for many years–some say decades. But we can fight back.
First of all, get your flu shot. I didn’t, and suffered for it. But yesterday, I went and got the vaccine. Why? Because the shot covers three different strains of the virus. Sure, I caught one, but I might still catch the other two, and that’s not something I would welcome. There are a lot of nonsense reasons that people avoid the flu shot. They don’t like shots. Well, the pain of the shot is a lot shorter-lived than the misery of the flu. They think the shot causes the flu. Really? Aside from the fact that that’s not scientifically possible, why wouldn’t we see a direct correlation between those who got the flu shot and those who got the flu? This makes about as much sense as saying that those antibiotics you took gave you strep throat. It’s just not true. Moreover, you don’t just harm yourself by failing to get the flu shot. Rather, you leave yourself vulnerable, which puts others at risk if you happen to get sick, and that leads to my next point.
If you get sick–especially if you are running a fever–stay home. That means don’t go to work, don’t go to the movies, don’t go to church, and if at all possible don’t travel. No one wants what you have. Stop the spread by staying home. You are advised to wait at least 24 hours after you no longer have any fever symptoms before reintroducing yourself to society, and that’s a minimum recommendation. Longer is better.
Now, you may be saying I should listen to my own advice. Well, as I said, I just got my flu shot yesterday. And I got a flu shot last year, and did not get the flu. So, it’s not as if I regularly avoid getting vaccinated. On the contrary, my story shows just how easy it is to let a simple little thing go unattended, with horribly unpleasant consequences. The flu shot is cheap—even free for most with insurance—and it takes just a moment to receive it. You can get the flu shot at Wal-Mart, your doctor’s office, the health department, the drugstore, you name it. This is not a hard thing to do. So, if you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet. Do it today. If you don’t, you might find yourself terribly sick for a couple of weeks. Consider yourself warned.