Like a lot of people, I dutifully got my flu shot last fall. I’ve been getting one every year for long enough that I don’t remember the last time I didn’t get one. And while I have come down with a cold here and there, I’ve avoided the flu, knock on wood.
And every year, I see the news that the flu shot is barely 50 percent effective, and in some years it is way below that. Last year it was only 40 percent effective, but I must have been in the lucky 40 percent. Got a cold for a few days, but the flu was nowhere in sight.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate up to 7.3 million Americans have come down with the flu since the fall began and that last year 80,000 people died from the flu. Only 37 percent got the flu shot last year and the CDC didn’t say, but I’d be interested to know how many of them were among the 80,000 dead.
The CDC won’t know how effective the shot was this winter season for a few weeks, but I remember one year it was 62 percent effective (or somewhere around that number) and that was considered so good I think the CDC held a parade and threw parties.
Why can’t they come up with a better way to fight the flu? I was once told by a doctor that the flu shot is based on whatever flu is sweeping through Asia in the months before fall and winter set in. That flu will make its way to America eventually, so an effective shot is created for it.
The problem is that flu will mutate as it makes its way around the world, changing, which makes having effectiveness at 62 percent a reason to celebrate.
As always, you could do a lot for yourself by simply following certain rules that help you avoid coming into contact with flu germs. The number one rule is don’t have kids, but it’s too late on that for a lot of people.
Another easy rule is wash your hands a lot and keep hand sanitizer handy. And, yeah, washing your hands after using the bathroom can help, but if you’re in a public place, after you wash your hands, you’ve still got to grab a door handle that God knows how many sick people have grabbed during the day. It’s better if you just keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer on you to use after you’re out of harms way.
Another winter malady making the rounds is seasonal affective disorder, or SAD (see what they did there?), where the lack of sunlight, short days and being stuck in the house can drive a person crazy.
We’re starting to slowly come out of it around here, but we’ve spent the past couple of months right in the heart of it. No daylight until nearly 8 a.m. and then it goes away around 5:30 p.m., and it’s worse if it’s cloudy.
We have more of a time zone problem around here than we do a daylight saving problem. We’re just a few feet, so to speak, from the central time zone, so we tend to have very dark mornings while just over the hill they have full dark around 4:30 p.m.
But either one will make you nuts. I was driving through Sweetwater recently and the world was covered in black, very few people were out, it was numbingly cold and I felt like I was burning the midnight oil. It was 5:45 p.m.
If you’re a very unfortunate person, if life really seems to hate you, then you’ll get both the flu and SAD. Life must only half hate me as I tend to hate life from early November, time change, to early March, time changes back, but I never get the flu (hopefully not famous last words).
Another thing the dead of winter does is strip away all ideas from your head and you can’t think of a thing to write. You end up writing about something banal and pointless and wondering how long it is before you can write about the Super Bowl commercials.
Not that it’s ever happened to me. I can only cross my fingers and hope I never have to sink that low.