You’d just about have to be from another planet not to be aware that the flu has struck Kansas and most other states earlier this year than is normally the case. Updates appear regularly in newspapers, on television, office water coolers and anywhere else people meet.
And unless doctors think it’s a bad idea, most folks have to be either indestructible or stubborn to the point of idiocy not to have gotten, or at least sought, a flu shot. It’s amazing how many people who shrug off flu shots because they “never get the flu” come down with it. Public health officials acknowledge that flu shots don’t come with guarantees, but the shots do substantially decrease the risk that you’ll get the flu and will likely result in milder symptoms that would occur otherwise.
The reality is, if you skip the flu shot, you’re at greater risk of contracting the flu, making yourself miserable and perhaps running up medical bills that could be harder to pay because you might also miss work. But the grief often doesn’t stop there. Chances are you’ll also make someone else sick — a spouse or a child, perhaps — or friends or co-workers who aren’t likely to appreciate it.
Washing your hands regularly will help stave off the flu, as will keeping your fingers out of your mouth, eyes and nose, places where viruses often enter the body. And please cover your mouth when you cough of sneeze; it’s more than a courtesy, if you’ve caught something, this will help keep it from spreading.
The latest word from national public health officials is that the flu has reached epidemic levels and is considered widespread in most states. In some parts of the country, vaccine supplies are dwindling. Fortunately, the number of cases is beginning to drop in areas where the flu struck first, but even in those places the threat persists.
The flu is serious business, particularly for young children, the elderly, people with medical problems. Typically, 30,000 to 40,000 Americans die from flu-associated illnesses each year. Last year alone, more than 1,300 Kansans died from illnesses associated with the flu.
Don’t be one of this year’s victims. Use common-sense precautions and get a flu shot. It’s not too late in the season, and the Riley County Health Department and other local outlets still have supplies. It’ll be well worth the trouble.