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I’m not tougher than the flu, after all

It was one month ago today that I sat on the exam table in my family physician’s office for my annual checkup.

Clacking away on the computer keyboard, the doc entered her notes, then paused and glanced up at me.

“Do you want a flu shot, today?” she asked.

:No,” I responded. “I never get one. I just don’t like putting unnecessary chemicals in my body.”

She kind of chuckled. “OK.”

Definitely one of my lesser intelligent moments.

Today marks day 10 of, yep, the flu. I missed the entire week of work last week. I can only once remember missing that many consecutive days of work or school. I did miss five days of seventh grade with some bug that, now looking back, probably also was the flu. I don’t think we had flu shot options back then.

This time it started out when my head got a little stuffy the previous week. Just a cold, I thought. I can push through this. Got too much to do.

Over the weekend came the fever, fatigue and — are we having fun yet? — the body aches.

By Monday, I thought I was on the mend. Since my work schedule was light that day, I figured it was a good day to take off and rest up before returning to the office Tuesday.

Wrong.

Pounding headache. Alternating bouts of sweating and chills. And — it just keeps getting better — then came the nausea.

Wednesday brought a trip to the urgent care; my official flu diagnosis; and orders to stay home the rest of the week or risk infecting my entire newsroom.

I obeyed. Believe me, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

According to the CDC, the most current figures for the week ending Jan. 11 show the flu is considered to be “widespread” in both Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The CDC also reports that so far this flu season, 5,786 confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported. That equates to about 19.9 per 100,000 population, which is similar to what has been seen during recent previous flu seasons this time of year.

The highest percentage of those hospitalizations, 47.6 percent, came among those aged 65 or older. The second highest, 34.4 percent, came among those aged 4 and under.

I don’t fall into either of those categories, but I have to admit, amid the haze of my nonstop fever, I was starting to wonder if I’d be better off in a hospital. Thank goodness, it never came to that.

The CDC also reports that so far, 172.2 million doses of the flu shot have been administered. I am not among them, but if you’re considering it, it’s not too late.

Sources say annual flu shots may be administered as early as October. Administering the shot much earlier may mean it will lose its effectiveness during the flu season. But it can still be given out, even now.

So, here’s what else I have learned about this nasty virus.

The best way to avoid it is pretty simple. Wash your hands A LOT. Use the hottest water you can tolerate, a good anti-bacterial soap and wash for at least 20 seconds.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

And of course, cover your cough to avoid spreading germs to others.

If you get the flu, go to the doctor at the first sign of symptoms. Prescription drugs can help lessen the severity of the miserable symptoms, but only if they start them very early in the illness.

I guess if I were to be the optimist that I usually am, I’d dwell on the fact that this illness led to me losing 5 pounds. Of course, I’m joking. This is not the preferable way to do that.

I think next year I’ll take the flu shot and instead just work a little harder at the gym.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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