Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In the midst of the flu zone

I visited my doctor yesterday for my annual check-up. The doctor wore a mask the entire time we spoke.  Before Dr. P. arrived I was led into the examining room by her young nurse. I noticed the nurse twice sneezed into the crook of her arm. From the look of her it was obvious she was under the weather.

During my time in the waiting area a woman was called into the doctor’s office. She was obviously very ill with what I think was flu. Other people were sitting in their chairs with their heads hung low. I assumed they felt pretty sick. As we know from the nightly news this is the winter of the flu. It’s been wreaking havoc around the country for a few weeks now.

After I had my chat with the doctor and she handed me a prescription I volunteered that I noticed a lot of sick people, and I was glad I had gotten my flu shot in December. Dr. P. said, “Good luck with that. I hope it’ll work, but we’ve had a bad match with the vaccine this year.” I suddenly envisioned millions of microscopic viruses flying about our heads, a swarm of them settling into the mucus membranes of my nose, looking to do their deadly work on me. I also saw my flu vaccine as being overrun by those viruses, not challenged at all in gaining entry to my system.

I consider myself a healthy person, and since I retired I’ve played the numbers game with getting a flu shot each fall. I got vaccinated every year when I worked at the school district because there were kids sneezing and coughing all over me. After retirement I let down my guard. This year I decided to get a shot. My wife and I were vaccinated, and I felt immune. So much for immune; lately I’ve been hearing that the strain of flu causing all the misery was not covered in the vaccine, so those of us who got the shot are on our own. I’ve also heard if I do get the flu it won’t be as bad, but that is cold comfort to me. I do not want any kind of flu, even a weakened strain.

I’m no fool. I went straight into the clinic’s restroom and scrubbed my hands, a process I repeated when I got home. It’s been less than 24 hours, and it takes a couple of days to come down with flu once exposed. I feel vulnerable. Even if I don’t get the flu, within a couple of days I need to do some shopping for groceries. Going out in public during an epidemic is chancy enough, but I guarantee stepping into a clinic or doctor’s office during that same period will ensure maximum exposure to whatever is in the air at the moment. My recommendation, if your planned visit to your doctor is for some sort of annual or routine visit, postpone it if you can. I believe your doctor will understand, and may even thank you for rescheduling. I wish I’d thought of it before stepping into the flu zone yesterday morning.

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