Saturday, April 19, 2014

Give me the Shot!!!!

How did I know that, to the left, was coming after me and not take evasive action? Simple, it was invisible to my naked eye as it is microscopic. So, yes, I did not get a flu shot this year.  I should have.  I am 65.  It is covered by Medicare. But I just didn't bother because I had so many other medical appointments. I shrugged it off as no big deal.  This is my fourth day down with it--no, prostrate with it--and I hope this is the last time I ever use that expression in describing myself with the flu.  If the body pains in every fiber of my being weren't enough, the constant fleeing to the toilet with my loosening bowels, certainly put this disease unto my future must-miss list. And to think that the 2013-2014 flu season is considered no big deal! I can't last recall when I was in this much pain!

I became very curious to see what could have been possibly worse about these really serious flus, which the internet resources confirm that I do not have. With my milder flu, they tell me I am at higher risk of death from it because I am elderly plus worldwide several hundred thousand people per year die of the flu. It sounds increasingly stupid of me to have skipped the shot.

Had I had a serious flu, I further read, like the 1918 one, I could have easily joined the twenty to fifty million people who died in it.  The 1918 flu caused more deaths than all the four years of the black death by the bubonic plague combined. 675,000 Americans died of it including half of the American servicemen in WWI. The enemy was only responsible for half of the death toll.

This 1918 flu killed rapidly, many people died within hours of getting the symptoms while others lasted a full day. Some people played bridge with one another one night, for example, and three out of the four of them got the flu during the night and were dead by morning. It was that virulent.

This flu particularly went for the victim's respiratory system. An especially viscous pneumonia was an early characteristic. Plus the lips turned purple, the face grey and the victim began to suffocate in his own fluids, becoming cyanotic. A blood tinged froth gushed out of the victim's mouth and nose.

Unusually this flu killed healthy adults far more than the elderly and new born because the immune system overreacted. Older and newborn people have weaker immune systems which were incapable of overreacting.

In 2005, scientists completed the sequencing of the genome of a 1918 flu victim'z viral RNA, which is where the 1918 flu lives. They dug up an Inuit woman's body. She had died of that flu but was frozen and preserved in the Alaskan tundra. Although this has not yet answered all the questions about the 1918 flu, it is a formidable resource tool. 

In 2009 we did get another version of the 1918 flu, shown right, which was also called swine flu but that naming led to the public's understanding the info being given it, especially to thinking that pigs and eating pork were the source of infection. However, just like the 1918 version, you got this flu by being exposed to another infected person's respiratory droplets. It was called swine flu because it was a recombined flu virus made up of previous human, swine, eurasian pig and avian flu virus strains. As this flu strain waned, critics said it had been blown out of proportion as it only killed 18,000 people. However, 284,500 is claimed by WHO as the truer number as the victim had to have had access to health care facilities to be counted in the death toll. Thus almost the entire death toll from southeast Asia and Africa went uncounted. Like the 1918 strain it went after healthy adults rather than the elderly and newborn.  It was also a respiratory assault like 1918's flu. My sister Dianna has a close friend who was hospitalized with this flu. She recovered but only after a long hospitalization and an induced coma during the worst of it. I was nervous about this flu the entire time it was ongoing in 2009 and 2010.  There were no flu shots but I had gotten the swine flu shot in 1976 and was told that probably would give me a very mild case of it if I got it at all.  I didn't.

My online research also showed that this flu season yielded great controversy over whether to get the flu shot. Many were skeptical about its worth.  I have only my experience to fall back on: when I get the flu shot, I don't get the flu.  That is enough for me to get another shot next year.  Some of the flu shot critics suggest I take elderberry extract or Vitamin D instead. This was not the first time I had been given similar advice.

Back in 2007 when I was undergoing severe chemo, I was told in the chemo room that elderberry wine could alleviate the potentially lethal diarrhea side effect. There is a lot of folk lore traded in such places. I enjoyed the elderberry wine while I also researched in an online library medical database about the then worldwide research on this issue. I did not turn up elderberry wine as the panacea but I did unearth that internationally there was a medical dispute over the issue. 

The Canadians gave their cancer patients anti diarrhea shots while in this fix while the Americans did not. The results worldwide favored the Canadians but the Americans stood fast on not using the shots. I marched off to my Cancer Center and demanded the Canadian shots.  I got them and problem solved. I never had another moment's problem with diarrhea in chemo. 

I resumed my flu reading online. Then, God help us, I learned that there is actually a cadre of people known as flu vaccine conspiracy theorists. What gave this cadre forward movement is that in 2012 the CDC did have one of its scientists commit research fraud during a trial for the swine flu of 2009. He was only suspended for four months rather than fired which is hard to understand. The conspiracy theorists also claim that the CDC greatly inflates its data when it is released to the public. This is a surprise? Do I need to say WMD? At the end of reading all of the alleged conspiracies though, the only thing everyone could agree upon was the most virulent aspect to the 2013-2014 flu and flu shot season was the controversy surrounding it. 

I still will take the shot over the way I am feeling tonight. I have written this while sleeping on and off most of the day.  I still hurt.  I still am on too good terms with the toilet.  I am hoping my respiratory system ignores the whole thing.  Thus, I have not read anything yet which makes me feel any less foolish for having skipped this year's vaccine shot.

1 comment:

  1. Hope you are feeling better, Carol.
    I had the flu shot last doctor....but have been on good terms with the respiratory system is legs ache.....
    Found me a new primary last week after my insurance company fired my nice female physician last November. And am on antibiotic. She, the new doctor, seems to think I have several "itis" problems....not the flu. Fortunately, every other day, I feel rather fine.

    I enjoyed this blog! You nailed the feeling....