Hello valued readers! Today we are having a guest blog from a dear friend, “Seattle”. (You might remember her from the Mindbling Blog days) She is an Infectious Disease Immunologist (she is scary smart!) and just wants to rant about the Swine Flu. Enjoy!
O-K. Ooooh-kay. Seriously people, this (piggy) flu season mania has gone TOO FAR. It must be fate for me to write about this today, because not 4 hours ago, I received an email from Wormy, asking for my “expert (no I’m not actually a flu expert but don’t tell Wormy)” opinion about the current Swine Flu Epidemic. And just now, 4 hours after that fateful correspondence, I get a forwarded email from my dear husband who plays hockey in a league in which about 90 teams play. The gist is: during flu season, there will be no end-of-game handshakes (to this point a customary show of good sportsmanship between the losers and the winners of a game) during flu season. That’s right, we are no longer allowed to say “good game” to our opponents and shake their hands because horrors we might get the flu from someone else’s hand shake. Um…have you ever had the flu before? You know, chills, fever, fatigue…general malaise…Do you really think people are going to be playing hockey with the FLU??? And also, uh…you know that the flu is an upper-respiratory infection, right? So it’s ok to sneeze and cough next to your teammates, but you can’t shake the hand of your opponents afterward? Wouldn’t you rather get your opponents sick than your teammates? So we’re going to promote bad sportsmanship, instead of telling people to wash their hands…ooookay.
And then there’s the other side of the spectrum. I heard on the news this morning, that people are having “Swine Flu” parties. People are actually getting together with people who have had contact with the Swine Flu and trying to catch it. On purpose. I think my mom did something like that to me with the chicken pox, but still, let’s not be silly here, people, if you’re lucky enough to not get the dreaded H1N1 this year, then chances are, you will be able to get the vaccine before the next flu season, thus avoiding the certain chills and sweats and a week of general misery and malaise associated with the flu…any flu. Because really, it is just the flu. Yes, it might be a little more severe because you’re never seen that particular flu strain or anything like it’s little seasonal cousins before, but it really still is “the flu.” Yes, children have died from it…I think the count in Washington is up to 40-something kids, and yes, that is horrible, but kids also die of the regular flu, too.
In fact, the seasonal flu annual death toll in the United States is 36,000 people. Did you know that? Yup, little kids and old people die from the flu. From the Swine flu, from the seasonal flu…people die of the flu. Which brings me to one last topic…Vaccines.
I am SO tired of hearing people being afraid of vaccines. Vaccines are good. Vaccines are why you haven’t died from smallpox. Vaccines are why both of your legs are the same length because you didn’t have to live through childhood polio (look it up, polio is disfiguring). Vaccines are why you didn’t have to have the mumps and why you don’t have to worry about tetanus- you know, lock jaw- it would suck, trust me. Vaccines are why (as in the 1970’s) you will one day be allowed to have as much promiscuous, unprotected sex as you want (unless you’re married- spouses tend to frown on promiscuity in their life-partners)– because we’re going to one day eradicate the clap, genital warts and HIV. And Vaccines are the glorious reason why you don’t have to have the seasonal flu. Do you ever hear people say “I don’t want to get the flu vaccine because it causes you to get the flu,” and “the flu vaccine causes neurological damage so I won’t get it,” oh, and my favorite “if I start getting the flu, I’ll just get Tamiflu (which is an anti-viral medication) and then I’ll be fine and I don’t have to get the flu shot.” Listen, if you think vaccines cause neurological damage, you probably already have neurological damage so you’ll probably be fine even if vaccines DID cause neurological damage, which they don’t. And trust me, getting vaccinated against ANYTHING is better than getting the disease. Even if you DID get a day of the sniffles, which is UNLIKELY from the vaccine.
I’ve had the flu shot every year for the past 5 years and I have never gotten sick from it. In the words of one of my anonymous vaccine developing co-workers “trust me, it works on lab rats and mice,” this vaccine will work for you. Go and get the flu vaccine. If you can find it, get the swine flu vaccine. While you’re at it, get your tetanus booster and your HPV vaccine too, what the hell.
But can we all just chill out and stop freaking out about the flu already? Chances are, you’ve lived through decades of flu seasons at this point; you will probably live through this one, too. So if you feel like you want to show your sportsmanship, why not just go and shake the hand of your opponent. Go ahead and lick it first; it will help them get their immune systems cranking if they’re stupid enough not to wash their hands.
Bitchburghs’ self-appointed science correspondent,
Geekless in Seattle