The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 6, 2013

Our View: Take a shot at limiting the flu

The Free Press

— Chances are you or your co-workers are already well aware that this year’s flu season is a doozy. Lots of people have been calling in sick — or worse yet, not calling in sick and spreading the virus around the workplace.

State health officials are predicting that this flu season could be one of the worse in years. So far the number of cases and their early arrival point in that direction.

The Mankato region has not been spared the viral assault — in fact, it’s been particularly hit hard. Last week, the state had recorded 226 flu cases that required hospitalization. Of those, 53 were in south-central Minnesota — the highest per-capita rate in the state.

So far this flu season nearly 600 hospitalizations in the state are attributed to the flu.

Local medical staff reported that 38 percent of the 500 cases tested by one of the clinic systems during one of the last weeks of December were positive for flu.

And although the flu shot does not guarantee you won’t get the flu because you could still pick up a strain not included in the vaccination, chances are also good that being immunized might mean you’ve built up antibodies to the targeted strains and your case might not be as serious.

And the flu is serious. Already four deaths in Minnesota are tied to flu this season, including a teenager.

It’s true that the most vulnerable are at the most risk, including the very old and the very young. But anyone who has had a case of full-blown flu knows it is a miserable illness that can knock you off your feet for up to 10 days. Your body needs about two weeks to form antibodies after the immunization. And complications from a serious illness are also a concern. The teen who died apparently ended up with a staph infection.

There is plenty of vaccine available this year. Those who haven’t been immunized yet should take the news of the aggressive flu season seriously. An early arrival of the virus doesn’t mean the season will be done quicker.

And those who are sick should stay home, cover their cough and attempt to control the spread of their illness.