• Flu Season is Here

  • By Dr. Scott Breidbart

    Chief Medical Officer

    Affinity Health Plan

    When it comes to infectious diseases, influenza or flu, doesn’t usually generate much interest. On the other hand, Ebola kills almost all infected people and was the main character in a best-selling book. Tuberculosis or consumption is worldwide, continuously threatens to become immune to all treatments, and has killed many famous people, from artists to politicians. Polio killed and paralyzed, and launched the March of Dimes. Its vaccine – along with that of smallpox – is one of the great triumphs of medicine.

    But flu? Flu doesn’t command the same level of fear and loathing. It’s common – everyone gets it at one time or another. People usually feel miserable for a week, and unless they are old, young, immune suppressed, or very unlucky, recover with nothing worse than the ire of the co-workers they infected. The flu season  lasts from fall into the early spring, similar to hockey season, and like hockey, some seasons start later and there are good and bad years. Experts cannot predict whether the season will start early, last a long time, or kill more people than usual.

    So, while it may not win a Golden Globe for worst infectious disease, you still DO NOT want to get the flu. You will feel rotten. If you are old, young, or have a poor immune system, the flu can kill you. If you spread it to a friend, neighbor or colleague who is fighting cancer, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or who had a transplant, it can pose a highly serious threat to their health.

    So how can you avoid the flu? Get a flu vaccine. Stay away from sick people or people who are complaining that they just feel achy and feverish. Don’t touch them. Don’t shake their hands. Don’t let them cough on you.Wash your hands. Get a flu vaccine.  

    Last winter’s flu vaccine was about 60 percent effective for adolescents. In comparison, statins don’t reduce  death from heart disease by 60 percent. Even seat belts don’t reduce crash-related injuries by 60 percent. The flu vaccine is recommended for just about everyone over the age of six months. Get a flu vaccine. And plead (if you must) with your family, friends and neighbors to get a flu vaccine if they haven’t already. That’s what I’m doing.