the last thing I have to say about the flu (for now)

December 12, 2008

So I tweeted about the number of people I’ve encountered recently who either have no understanding of basic science or are just plain stupid about some of the ways humans (and other animals) can get sick. What set me off most recently was a so-called health care professional who was holding forth about how influenza is not contagious and the only way to spread it is via vaccine. (There were other pseudo-scientific gems, but I’m trying not to digress for a change).

I got lots of hilarious commiseration from friends and twitter followers – I’m pretty sure everyone in the world has that co-worker or friend who claims to never be sick, even though they’re constantly complaining about being sick. Sadly, the fact that these people don’t like to admit that they’re wrong to the point of making others around them sick isn’t so funny.

The vaccines aren’t perfect and they can’t cover every viral mutation. You can still get sick – but why take the chance you’ll get a flu you can prevent, which weakens your immune system and leaves you more vulnerable to a host of other infections you might otherwise shake off?

The CDC has a rather thorough website on the matter of the flue, as does the World Health Organization.

Since most people get an average of 4-6 colds or other viruses-y things a year, statistically speaking many of them are either sick and asymptomatic or get sick soon after they get a flu shot and mistakenly believe the shot gave them the flu. Or they’re very prone to the power of suggestion and are so sure the dead vaccine will give them the flu they develop symptoms. Or, they’re just stupid. We can’t rule out stupidity.

I’m going to avoid a digression into how sad it is that many healthcare workers – doctors, nurses, EMTs, lab techs – need to be threatened with sanctions before they’ll be vigilant about washing their hands, getting vaccinations, or following other basic protocols. It hurts my brain. It hurts my brain that people who claim to care about the public good are reckless and it hurts my brain to rein in so many digressions. But I’m digressing about digressions…

Yes, there are people who are allergic to eggs or have illnesses that preclude vaccination, my issue isn’t that people who don’t get a flu shot are automatically the devil. I’m just annoyed with the arrogant idiots who think they have superior genes and, when they do get sick, refuse to admit it or keep their germs at home.

I don’t even think flu shots should necessarily be mandatory for the general public, but I think that people need to take the time to be better informed about the flu and I think they need to show better common sense when they are sick. Sadly, common sense seems to be in short supply.

It’s not worth arguing, or at least not worth my energy to argue anymore – I just do my best to avoid them. Colds, flu or mucous-spraying viral infections of any kind are no laughing matter to those of us on immunosupressing drugs. I had several people who “never get sick” persist in coming to events last year even though they were clearly sick. One of them coughed up the mucous equivalent of Lake Michigan at a small gathering, all the while insisting it was just a sinus infection and couldn’t possibly be contagious. Four days later, everyone else who was there got sick with the same symptoms. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. After that I spent almost 2 months with pneumonia and almost drowned in my own lungs, so as you may imagine I’m a little bit prickly about the whole thing. I say that not to be selfish, it’s your decision how to manage your health and personally I have no problem being aggressive about making sure that I do all that I can to avoid people who’re sick even if it hurts their feelings. I think people want to play games with their own health, that’s fine, but I think it’s selfish not to think about their families and the people who rely on them, to not take simple precautions not to spread more germs around than them than have to because they’re afraid of shots or arrogant or whatever. Really folks, this is not brain surgery.

Incidentally, when I say I heard hilarious stories – I don’t mean that sarcastically in reference to the ones about the deaths of children or loved ones, I mean the ones like the manager who announced she “doesn’t get sick” minutes before she threw up all over the clients conference table while her minions (my friends) tried to look appropriately concerned but really wanted to fall down laughing.

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1 Comment
December 12, 2008 @ 1:48 am

Good post.Sucks to find out who your friends are the hard way,don’t it?My first round of chemo I sent the people I thought were my social support network a message outlining what was happening and I made sure everyone understood that they needed to take precautions and one of those would be flu shots.The two people closest to me told me they valued the convenience of not getting a shot more than my friendship and that they’d see me after flu season.It was a tough time to get my heart broken I’ll tell you that.People who truly care about you will respect you and respect what you’re going through.The ones who shrug and say that they don’t have time to spend 10 minutes getting a flu shot don’t belong in your life,it’s too precious to share with people like that.One of those friends got to sick that year they took out her spleen.I never said I told you so but I wanted to especially when she called and asked me to take her to the doctor.Don’t let these people wear you down or make you feel so socially isolated that you start making exceptions,you only get one life and it’s too precious to let other people compromise it.