I had the flu this year and it was a bear. My husband got it too, even though we both had our flu shots (the high-dose super-strong version for older adults). I hope the shot reduced the severity of the disease because I’d hate to think how much worse the full-on version might have been.
We're not alone. This is the worst flu season in several years - possibly comparable to if not worse than the 2009 swine flu epidemic - and influenza is widespread in all regions of the US. The most prevalent strain (by far) of the virus - H2N3 - also tends to be the most severe.
Although flu victims may joke wryly about not being sure whether they're afraid they'll die of the flu or afraid they won't, the flu and complications such as pneumonia are actually killing as many as 4,000 Americans per week, so - not really such a joke after all. The highest-risk populations are infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems, but young, healthy individuals are also at risk of succumbing to sepsis or septic shock, an often overlooked complication of many illnesses, including the flu. Sepsis kills up to 500,000 Americans per year by overwhelming the body's defenses against infection.
Even though my husband and I apparently lost the lottery this year, we won’t hesitate to be vaccinated again next year. Here’s a pretty good explanation of why flu vaccines (unlike many others) may only provide partial protection and why we should get the shot even so. It also explains how an influenza pandemic differs from the seasonal flu we’re experiencing now.
The holy grail is a universal flu shot, but until then, the current vaccine is our best shot at avoiding the flu and protecting others. Even if you've already had the flu, you can still catch one of the other three strains in wide circulation. And even if you think an uber-strong immune system is your superpower, please accept this Valentine's Day reminder that when you don't have a shot you are taking the risk not only on your own behalf but also on behalf of everyone around you. Chocolates are fine, but this is the best gift you can give to those you love best.
The flu season will probably last through May and the flu can strike in any month, so check with your doctor if you haven't yet had your flu shot.