Kate Day Sager

One of my earliest memories of misery was fighting a bad case of influenza as a child. 

As my siblings were also sick, my grandmother came to our aid and helped Mom swab fevered foreheads with cold washcloths and clean up messes left by nauseated, achy children.

In the years since then, the nasty flu bug has crept up on me a few times, but never with the veracity of the influenza that struck decades ago. Until recently, that is. 

Earlier this week a nagging cough and general malaise struck me at the office, prompting me to head home as soon as possible. Figuring it might be a sore throat, which could turn into a change-in-weather head cold, I downed some over-the-counter meds and hoped they would help. By evening, it was getting worse and was accompanied by a fever and chills. 

By the next morning, I had returned to the valley of the dark from years ago. The aches were horrible, keeping water down to stay hydrated was a challenge and moving from the couch to get to the bathroom was an Olympic feat. 

A test done through my doctor’s office confirmed I had contracted Type A influenza, or H1N1 — which probably could have been avoided with a vaccine. 

But like many “it ain’t going to happen to me” procrastinators, I kept putting off the vaccine, figuring it could be done a little later. We procrastinators also have skipped flu shots in the past on the belief the immunizations also can make you sick and don’t protect you from all types of viruses. 

Apparently, there are others in the community with that same philosophy, as reported or suspected flu cases are on the upswing.

According to Dennis McCarthy, spokesperson for Upper Allegheny Health System, the parent organization of Olean General Hospital and Bradford Regional Medical Center, area flu cases continue to rise. At Olean General, five lab-identified Influenza A cases have been confirmed, but none admitted to the hospital. Mr. McCarthy said the Olean numbers appear to be lower, but may not be, as the flu cases are primarily reported through the emergency department. 

Bradford Regional, which receives its reported cases from the doctors’ offices and Emergency Department, also has seen a spike in cases. Eleven cases were confirmed by Dec. 24, and 30 more confirmed between Jan. 1 and Jan. 10. Of that, two individuals were hospitalized. From Jan. 11 through Jan. 17, there were 42 positive lab results with two more hospital admissions. 

Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated “overall flu activity continues to be high in the United States with activity continuing to spread to other states.”

Mr. McCarthy said it is difficult to get an exact number of influenza cases in the community because many people don’t get tested and some don’t see their doctor.  

“They just grind it out and get through it on their own,” he said.

For those who don’t want to tough it out, getting the flu shot will likely help avoid a certain couple of days of misery, or longer. It will also help keep down the spread of the illness to those who have compromised health and might not fare as well. 

An unsettling prediction for this flu season is that it will be hanging around well toward the end of February. Therefore, a flu vaccination received until then may help prevent a day or two on the couch, a visit to the doctor’s office or admission to the hospital.

While my health is on the upswing, the good dose of a bad bug will likely inspire me to get flu vaccines in the future. All of the procrastinators should run, not walk, to the nearest clinic. 

 (Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com)