2009 officially marks my ninth flu season as a preschool teacher. By now I have encountered every cough, cold and flu that has run roughshod through the halls of my schools, and my immune system is ironclad. Sadly, this does not extend to my dear wife Tracey who came down with a nasty seasonal flu and then the one-two punch of conjunctivitis.
Every year it is the same story, classes dwindle as students stay home sick, and teachers cross their fingers hoping that they are spared the brunt of another year's flu outbreaks. As a specialist, I am particularly vulnerable as I come in contact with hundreds of kids on a daily basis. This year the news is a bit more alarming with the H1N1 virus in all 50 states, and especially prevalent in schools. Not just the elderly, those with respiratory illness, and/or infants are at risk. Seemingly healthy patients are winding up in the hospital or worse.
There is good news! The scientific and medical communities have been working tirelessly to come up with a vaccine that can minimize risk of contracting the H1N1 virus. Thankfully this particular strain of flu is not as virulent as predicted, and though it is common for influenza to mutate, the H1N1 strain has remained stable and this vaccine proves to be a strong hedge against rampant infection.
The biggest impediment to the success of this effort by the C.D.C. and the W.H.O. is sadly the very tools that health organizations use to spread the word about vaccination. The internet is ripe with fear-mongering, misinformation and conjecture that is focused on political interests and not the health of those of us in the trenches of the war on flu. I have received emails whooping up anxiety, directing my attention to pseudo-scientific websites, and citing anecdotal evidence about vaccinations as far back as the 1918 Spanish Flu as a means of confusing the issue.
Thankfully the knowledge of DNA, advances in vaccine production, the use of non-live virus vaccines, and sound scientific practices have given us a chance to stave off a pandemic that could cost many young lives. There is a wealth of information about vaccines at the C.D.C. website if you find yourself concerned or confused by the dyne of misinformation out there:
When in doubt, err on the side of caution and keep your child and yourself home when you may be coming down with the flu. Shots and flu mists aside, that is the best way to stop the transmission of the flu.
Kid Quote of the Day: "See, I catched my cough in my elbow." ~Halley (age: 3)