Maybe I’m getting a little older and the immune system just ain’t what it used to be, but "dog bite" (as my grandfather used to say) if this hasn’t been about the worst non-influenza respiratory bug season in recent memory. (The flu has been pretty bad too, by the way.) Just about everybody has gotten a taste of it, and on second thought I’m going to go ahead and venture the proclamation that this is the worst cold season in my 32 years of practicing medicine.
I have no scientific data backing that claim, although personal observations must count for something. Maybe it’s partly because yours truly has already been blessed with three distinct bugs — that’s never happened before —one routine head cold, one sort of a sore throat and bronchitis, and a deep chest bug with violent dry coughing that seemed to go on for weeks. The only thing left to complete the grand slam would be pneumonia, and no I’m not asking for it.
One of the offending organisms may be the human metapneumovirus, a nasty bug that has further menaced the pediatric population and with symptoms that seem to linger around much longer than the standard cold.
The flu season has been busy as well and much more so than last season. The CDC says it’s too early to assess the effectiveness of the 2019-2020 flu vaccination. We have seen sporadic cases in folks who have been vaccinated, yet the hope is that some protection will have been conferred (i.e. through suboptimal immune response to the vaccine) as opposed to getting ill with a strain of flu not covered by the vaccine itself.
Everybody six months and older should be vaccinated and it’s never too late. There are very few exceptions, one being the history of having had a serious reaction to the flu vaccine. Genuinely serious reactions to the flu vaccine are very rare, however, and I’ve never heard of it killing anybody. Influenza, as everyone knows, does kill — usually about 300,000 to 500,000 deaths globally each year. History buffs know that the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people around the world. Tragically, the overwhelming majority of childhood deaths from flu are victims who were not vaccinated. So, parents, listen up!
Claiming an egg allergy is no longer a valid excuse to avoid getting vaccinated, and the alleged link between vaccinations in general and development of autism or Asperger syndrome has been thoroughly debunked.
To tell the truth, I wasn’t too keen to get vaccinated myself way back when until I got the real deal — a bad case of the flu. It’s one thing being sick enough not to go to work perhaps. You get to lounge around in bed, watch a little tube, take sporadic naps, read, and chill. Unfortunately, it’s another thing being ill with the flu when all one wants to do is lie down in anguish and cry for mamma.
Knock on wood, no episodes of getting flu since I started getting routinely vaccinated, although once I made the bone-headed decision to have a nurse administer me a flu shot while I was struggling with a routine viral cold. She said, “Don’t do it, Doc. You don’t take the flu shot if you’re not well. You’re going to regret it.”
She was right and I did. So get the flu shot, but get it while you’re well and before it’s too late.