Flu or Flop?

Again, my weekly column for the paper I work for.  This week I have had two people tell me that they read it and like it.  This makes me very happy because well, writing a column is a bit difficult at times.

My kids have been in school for eight years now, and getting sick is just another feature of putting your children in a room with a bunch of other children. Germs get passed, no matter how often they are told to wash their hands or the teacher sprays down every surface with Lysol. Kids spread germs like moms spread peanut butter over bread.

With the scare of the H1N1 virus last spring, people wondered what would happen when fall came. Usually there is a “seasonal flu”, a virus that gives those unlucky enough to catch it the chills, fevers, and coughs that hit later in the year. Many older people and those with other medical issues are urged to get a vaccine shot that many health departments and doctor offices offer. Those of us who do not get it might or might not catch this bug, depending on if they are exposed and if they have had the virus before.

The H1N1 did not present itself as a typical seasonal flu we have all seen. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) discouraged people from visiting places like Mexico and South America. Even flights were canceled during the peak travel this spring. This summer it has seemed to die down, yes there were some reported cases, and yes some people, seemingly healthy people died. However, is it as serious as the CDC has warned us it is?

People contract and die of the flu every year. Even the flu shot is no guarantee that you will not get the virus. Some years the vaccine misses the mark, and you still wind up ill. This year, we have two rounds of shots available, one for the seasonal and the other for the H1N1.

Schools even have a plan of action this year for children who get sick. They are urged to stay home, parents are urged to quarantine other siblings for a week after exposure. Schools have had presentations on how to cough, on the sleeve of your shoulder, so you do not get germs on your hands. Papers have been sent home on this plan of action, asking for the cooperation of parents with this issue.

But is all of this necessary? Sure it is good to teach kids how to cough in their arm and have a plan of action in place for a school-wide epidemic. It seems like every year we have something going around the school and a few years it has closed because too many students were absent. We know we should keep our kids home if they are sick. But a week?

I have heard from those who have been ill over the past month that they have had nothing more than a sore throat, chills, fever and a cough. Is this the H1N1 virus we have been warned against? It is a bit early for the seasonal flu, but most people stay home two to three days and are much better afterward. Most do not even see a doctor. Even some reports I have heard are saying this is not going to be as bad as previously predicted.

So with all the hubub over this H1N1 virus and all of the extra precautions, it leaves me wondering, who is crying wolf?


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