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A dark and stormy night

Influenza humbles EO reporter
Kathy Aney

East Oregonian

Published on January 12, 2018 7:06PM


I love a good storm.

When lightning sizzles through the sky and rain batters the window glass, I can’t look away. I pull up a chair.

If the storm rages inside my body, however, it’s quite another matter.

When my husband Bill got the flu a couple of weeks ago, I brought him soup and tea. I didn’t worry about getting the flu. After all, I hadn’t seen a doctor for anything other than a routine checkup in years. I exercised every day and ate plenty of vegetables. I arrogantly believed I was so healthy, flu would take one look and back away, hands lifted in a gesture of submission. A virus would bounce off my body like hot oil in a Teflon pan, right?

Wrong.

Several days ago, my chest tightened and a chill reverberated through my body. Shaking it off, I went on with my day. Within hours, flu hit me over the head with a tire iron, or so it seemed. I had the classic array of influenza symptoms: difficulty breathing, sore throat, runny nose, fever, cough and weakness. I slept for 24 hours straight.

I wrote about the flu just before I got sick.

In the story, Dr. Ann Thomas, public health physician for the State of Oregon said flu season had taken off dramatically in the last few weeks. Thomas predicted a record-setting season. She urged people to run to the nearest pharmacy and get a flu shot — now.

Umatilla County Public Health Administrator Jim Setzer said the same thing. “Get your flu shot,” he ordered, in a voice that brooked no disobedience.

I planned to do just that. Sometime.

Then the flu happened.

On the second day of my internal storm, unable to sleep any more, I walked from my bed to the kitchen and back, feeling as if I’d run a marathon. I snuggled back under the blankets and spent the next few hours binge watching “The Good Wife” and “This is Us,” checking my newsfeed, texting friends and playing nerdy word games — Scrabble, Words with Friends and Word Streak.

Finally, bored, I searched the Internet to find out how many others are in my predicament. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the U.S. is in the midst of an especially severe flu season. Flu season ramped up early this year. A map on the website showed flu in every state. So far, influenza has killed 20 children in the U.S. Several more weeks of significant flu activity are on tap. The CDC reported high flu activity in Oregon and 26 other states.

I read an article from the Bend Bulletin with interest. The story said all 349 beds in Bend, Redmond, Madras and Prineville hospitals are full. Flu appears to be the culprit.

The most pervasive strain, H3N2, is nasty. This year’s vaccine included H3N2, but the strain morphed and mutated into something different.

It’s still a good idea to get a flu shot say the experts. The vaccine is a cocktail of viruses that are inactivated and mixed with proteins, fats and antigens. If vaccinated people get the flu, they are likely to get a milder version.

It’s definitely worth considering. I won’t be so blasé next year about it.

The storms appears to be lifting now. Life will go on. Next year, however, when influenza season threatens like dark clouds on the horizon, I won’t wait to get a flu shot. I’ll be first in line.

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East Oregonian staff reporter Kathy Aney writes about health and human interest.



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