Tis the season for the flu

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flu seasonBy Darrel Crain, DC

 Don't you just love the changing of the seasons? Winter, then spring, then summer, then flu…wait a minute, what day does the flu season actually begin? I checked all the calendars in my house, but I could not find a single one that marked the starting day of flu season.

After looking in a few newspapers I concluded nobody really knows for sure. Various reports pegged the opening at the first of September, the first of October, and even the first of November, according to one Canadian newspaper. Two things they all agreed on, though. First, the flu bug will probably be terrible this year, and second, everyone should get a flu shot.

Most Americans, however, just aren't buying it. According to a recent poll, the flu is pretty far down the list of things we worry about. Most of us turn up our nose rather than roll up our sleeve.

My favorite advice from health leaders on how to avoid the flu is reserved for those flu seasons when the supply of flu shots is running low. “Don't worry, you'll be okay, just make sure to get plenty of rest, take vitamin C and eat a healthy diet!”

Speaking of Canada, an ambitious public health experiment with flu shots was begun in Ontario in 2000, called the Universal Influenza Immunization Campaign (UIIC). Flu shots for everybody, on the house!

Ontario taxpayers paid $38 million to vaccinate everybody, anticipating it would decrease the number of flu-related emergency room admissions, as well as decrease the number and severity of influenza cases.

After five years, disappointment and failure was reported in the June, 2006 issue of the medical journal, Vaccine. “Despite increased vaccine distribution and financial resources towards promotion, the incidence of influenza in Ontario has not decreased following the introduction of the UIIC.” What about hospital admissions? “Based on this study, a universal influenza immunization campaign is unlikely to affect ED [emergency department] volume.”

It's pretty much the same story south of the U.S.-Canada border. After nearly thirty years of escalating efforts of mass flu vaccination here, “We could not correlate increasing vaccination coverage after 1980 with declining mortality rates in any age group,” according to a 2005 report by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Do you suppose our health leaders are just too tired and overworked to squeeze in time to read up on actual scientific results? “Vaccination is the single best way to help prevent influenza and its complications…” exclaimed Daniel B. Jernigan, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Blind enthusiasm for flu shots is apparently quite contagious inside the government. Our wise leaders recently donated more than $1 billion of U.S. taxpayer money to the grateful vaccine makers so they can upgrade their facilities and crank out more shots. “The federal government has created a demand for vaccines by putting money on the table…The profitability is back and the low margins are gone,” noted Jose Rasco, an investment strategist at Merrill Lynch.

Oh well, as long as our leaders insist on sticking to the whole flu shot ritual, we need to help them brighten up the fearful and depressing way the thing gets promoted. I've been giving the whole flu season thing some serious thought, and I think I've come up with some surefire suggestions that will fire up people's enthusiasm.

First of all, the kickoff for the season itself is too vague. What day does it begin? We need a special day each year. The Official Flu Season Opening Day should be a holiday—fun, exciting, a celebration! We need parades, marching bands, celebrity interviews, the whole bit.

And what about a slogan? “One for the money, two for the flu!” No? How about, “Don't be caught without the shot!” Probably we should have a national contest to come up with a slogan. First prize: flu shots for the whole family.

I imagine the pharmaceutical boys can easily figure how to capitalize on this thing, “The Official Flu Season Nasal Spray!” And there is no reason to limit the market to health products either, think “Official Flu Season Beer!” and so on.

Vaccine enthusiasts also need to take a cue from Halloween candy enthusiasts. Have you noticed over the last few years that more people are decorating their yards with gaudy, giant Halloween lights and displays that resemble the gaudy, giant lights and displays we used to save for Christmas? Yards of America, decorate yourself for the flu season!

Imagine giant, six-foot high, lighted syringes pointing skyward, hooked up to the garden hose. Can you picture it? At the end of the needle a fine spray nozzle will squirt out water in celebration of the mighty flu shot.

Advertising agencies need to pitch in and design some cute little dancing flu germs, you know, like the dancing raisins, only scarier. They can be dancing right next to the big syringe, except for a few dead ones impaled on the giant hypodermic.

I know what you are thinking, loads of people these days opt for getting the flu shot squirted up their nose instead. These folks could set out giant, illuminated noses in their yard, with the squeeze thingie that delivers the flu spray sticking out of one nostril.

I have only scratched the surface here folks, the possibilities for having fun during the flu season are endless. Once we get enough businesses making tons of money selling all this flu season fun stuff, the whole thing will take off with a life of its own.

This year the CDC reports that we have record numbers of flu vaccine available so that all the gentlemen, ladies and bald-headed babies who wish to can get a shot.

Now, if only our health leaders will take my advice, make this thing fun and quit trying to scare the daylights out of us. Don't they realize Halloween already has the market on scary?

Come to think of it, witches and goblins are scary, but nowhere near as frightening as all the mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum and other stuff in the flu shots. Hold on, that's it, what a great idea! Halloween is the perfect new Official Opening Day for Flu Season.

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Pretty funny article, isn't it?

I like it.