Don't Kid Yourself, the Flu is Very Serious

Doris Dimmitt, Hospital Epidemiologist CTH

Well it’s that time of year again.  Like it or not a chill is in the air, the holidays are approaching and it’s time to think about influenza. I am happy to say that as of today no influenza cases have been reported at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, or in Nevada for that matter.  Only a few States have seen any according to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) latest report.  But don’t kid yourself, it is coming.  If you haven’t had your flu vaccine, now is the time.  It doesn’t surprise me that vaccination rates are lower this year.  After all, influenza isn’t all over the media as in years past, but don’t kid yourself, influenza season is beginning.  The influenza vaccine and vaccines in general received a bad rap in the last few years.  Good or bad, for many diseases vaccination is still the best way to prevent the illness.

One thing that keeps me awake at night is the rapidly increasing numbers of bacterial infections in this community that can’t be treated with common, nontoxic, cheap antibiotics. (Sorry, I don’t mean to give you whiplash by changing the subject so quickly, but stick with me and I will tie it all together, I promise).  You see, bacteria take advantage of you when you are down sick with the flu.  They jump at the opportunity to make more baby germs and use your sore, feverish body as their incubator.  This can make your recovery very complicated.   The main concern is MRSA.  As reported for years, MRSA infection and colonization rates in the community are increasing.  Don’t kid yourself, more and more of us are carriers and we don’t even know it.  The problem is, when the flu and MRSA infections occur at the same time……….it can kill.  I’m talking necrotizing pneumonia that eats away the lungs, and this is no scary movie, it’s real. Take a an article from the New York Times regarding healthy kids, influenza and MRSA by clicking here. The same is true for adults, and I find it down right horrifying.  These two bugs working together can be murder.  Influenza weakens you, and MRSA, even if just a colonizer, zooms in for the kill.

If there was a way to protect yourself and your family from this kind of disaster, would you do it?  Of course you would, and it is simple.  VACCINATE against the flu.  No flu…no MRSA complication, simple.  I still hear “No flu shot for me, the last time I got the flu from the shot”.  I know I will never convince some of you otherwise, but there is no valid data to support this assumption.  Remember, the shot takes 2-3 weeks for full protection.  During that time, you are susceptible to the flu.   There is also current literature to suggest the influenza vaccine may not be as good at preventing the flu as previously thought.  But unless you want to lock yourself and your family in a bubble until spring, the vaccine is still the best bet.  It is still not known why some people catch influenza and some do not, but don’t kid yourself, it can get you.

Thanks for listening.  Doris Dimmitt, Hospital Epidemiologist, CTH