Thursday, January 11, 2018
This flu season is looking bloody dangerous
Miss D. and I are both on the mend after about ten days of being pole-axed by the current flu virus. We both ended up with incipient bronchitis, despite doing our best to follow medical instructions and safeguard ourselves. It's been a very unpleasant experience, one neither of us would like to repeat anytime soon.
Unfortunately, we're far from alone in having been laid low. Local hospitals have been overwhelmed by patients streaming (literally and figuratively) to the ER with flu symptoms, so much so that they've appealed for people to go to their primary physicians first, rather than swamp all other emergency facilities. It's reported that 15% to 20% of those going to the ER with flu symptoms end up being admitted, filling all available beds to capacity, and leading to a backlog of patients waiting for the next bed to open up. Cases are up tenfold from this time in 2017, and deaths from flu and pneumonia in Texas are reportedly skyrocketing - 1,155 from October 1st, 2017 until January 3rd, 2018.
I hear that a big part of the problem is that many people simply can't afford to stay home when they feel flu symptoms coming on. Too many families have eaten up their financial reserves, and also are now in lower-paying jobs than they may have had before the economic crisis of 2007/08. They can't afford to be without income for a week or so while they get over the flu. It's the difference between being able to buy food for their children, or not. That means they're spreading the infection far and wide, which is bad enough; but it also means they're getting worse, rather than better, and ending up in the ER instead of being able to recover from a lesser infection at home.
I don't have an easy answer for that. It's all very well to say that food banks and other charities should take up the slack; but around here, such facilities are already short-staffed and under-supplied. How will they cope with a sudden, drastic increase in demand, when there's no corresponding increase in supply? Your guess is as good as mine - but my guess is, they won't be able to cope at all. Also, if sick people have to congregate at such places to get food, or volunteers have to deliver food to them, you've just got a brand-new vector for the spread of the disease.
Folks, please be careful. If you find you're getting even the initial symptoms of a cold or flu-like infection, please consult your doctor ASAP, and do everything you're told. Aesop has a very good list of precautions and prophylactic treatments we can all follow, if necessary. They're worth reading in full, and applying.