Let’s just make the flu illegal!

The world’s most effective Petri dishes — schools — have reopened after the holiday break and that should make the flu season here worse than it already was.

“The number of kids we saw in the month of December–we have never seen like this ever before,” the director of infection prevention and control at Children’s Hospital tells WCCO. “I have been here 27 years and this was really record-breaking.”

A couple dozen kids are in the intensive care unit there.

Meanwhile, your cubicles mates are — if your organization is like most — wheezing and spreading the virus because they either couldn’t stay home (no sick time) or didn’t want to stay home (too important).

Flu shots weren’t a great help this year because they didn’t match the predicted virus that well. And only about half of people get flu shots anyway.

Still, Elie Mystal writes at Above the Law, the government can do more to lower the risk of the flu.

First of all: everybody should get the flu shot. Yes, even you, pregnant lady. Hell, especially you, pregnant lady. I really enjoyed this post that debunks 25 myths about the flu shot for people who have spent too much time listening to anti-vaxxers. The government couldn’t require people to take the flu shot. You have a constitutional right to be an idiot. But the government should be the cheerleader-in-chief for the vaccine and provide free flu shots.

But where the government could really help would be to institute a public/private partnership where the taxpayers would buy up unused flu vaccines to provide some kind of cushion for drug companies who oversupply. Fewer than half of the people in the U.S. get the flu shot every year. That is a FAILURE, America. The government should help us do better.

I also want to see the National “Note From A Doctor” Act. If you have the flu, DON’T GO TO WORK and infect the rest of us, you nasty, sneezing, walking infection. Nobody wants to go to work when they have the flu, but not everybody has a job where “calling in sick” is an easy option. We need legal protections that say if your doctor diagnoses you with a serious infectious illness, you can miss work with no consequences.

We can’t just leave this all to private industry and science. The flu should be illegal! Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for some more DayQuil.

Three children in Minnesota have died from the flu so far this season.

Related: Science says mom's right: Bundle up to avoid a cold (Bloomberg).

  • Robert Moffitt
  • John

    I keep waiting for the shoe to drop here, but so far, it hasn’t made a significant appearance at my workplace. Ditto on my kids, so far they’ve dodged it, but with school back in session, I figure about the beginning of next week everyone will be sick.

    I’m lucky (and glad) that my employer has a sick policy that allows us to stay home when we’re ill. (I’m usually completely useless when I have the flu anyways).

    • Dave

      At my work yesterday:

      Guy: (coughs at me) I was in bed for four days (cough) over christmas (cough) with the flu. Now my (cough) wife has it (cough). I hear it’s pretty (cough) contagious!

      I wanted to put him thru a window, but wouldn’t get that close to him.

  • Jack

    I vote for a pneumatic tube (like at the doctor’s office) that we can use to ship home sick individuals who insist on coming into work. (Yes – I am talking about you friend.)

    I am fortunate enough to be able to work remotely and when my colleagues are sick and insist on coming into work, I work remote. If they won’t protect me from the crud, it’s up to me to protect my health as a member of the sensitive health club. Yes – I get a flu shot each year but I also take the extra steps of staying off public transportation, shopping when few are at the grocery store, etc.

    Love my colleagues dearly but would they please stay home when they are sick? Please, pretty please?

  • Robert Moffitt

    I hate to admit it, but I have been guilty of coming to work while sick. Never with the flu, though.

  • jon

    So we’ve had as many children die from the Flu in MN as we’ve had total cases of Ebola in the country. 3 times as many deaths in MN from the flu as the whole country has seen from Ebola…

    People have been calling on the government to act on Ebola, I don’t see a reason why calling for government action on the far more deadly (in this country at least, so far) and far more infectious.

    File this under the “seems reasonable” category.

    As I type sitting in my cubical I hear coughing coming from two directions.

  • Anna

    The last two years have been abysmal failures in regards to the effectiveness of the flu vaccine itself. In both years the effectiveness has been less than 60% and this, unfortunately, is widely reported in the press.

    There are a limited number of companies manufacturing vaccines so a lot of years there are shortages so people who want to get the flu shot can’t get them.

    Perhaps the CDC and FDA should concentrate their efforts on developing an effective nasal vaccine for those 50 and over and get the “shot’ out of the picture altogether. Perhaps more people would get vaccinated if they didn’t have to face the dreaded jab in the arm or in toddlers and frail elderly, the thigh.

    I worked a flu shot clinic for Mollen Immunization clinics when they were held at Wal-Mart. A woman stopped at my table and was complaining about pain from the shot she had about two hours ago at her physician’s office. The shot was not given in the right location in her arm. It was given in the middle of her upper arm, not in the deltoid where it should have been. There was unusual swelling and redness and I told her to go back to her MD’s office immediately.

    There are several large muscles that can accommodate the vaccine. The most common ones are the deltoid in the shoulder and the vastus lateralis in the upper thigh.

    You also have to use the right sized needle for IM injection. This is usually a 5/8” 25 gauge needle for children under 6 (and very thin adults) or a 1 inch, 25 gauge needle for adults. For very obese adults, a 1 1/2 inch needle may have to be used to get the medication into the muscle where it can be absorbed properly.

    Since many medications are not longer given by IM injection, doing an injection properly and with the right sized needle is becoming a lost art.

    Many people are very gun shy of injection needles and that complicates the situation even further.

    It is no wonder why people don’t get flu shots?

    • BJ

      You mentioned the poor placement, and proper equipment, but also the poor technique in giving them.

      • Anna

        I was taught to “dart” the needle in. Pushing the needle in causes more tissue damage and is more painful. The needle also has to be bevel up.

        I learned my IM technique 20 years ago. I am not sure what they are teaching nursing and medical students nowadays.

        • Veronica

          Everyone find Anna to get our flu shots!

          Actually I got mine already this year. The nurse did an amazing job.

  • Kassie

    I was out sick all last week with the flu. Far too many of my co-workers have compromised immune systems for me to consider coming in when really sick. I had to cancel 6 meetings the first day I was out, but luckily the rest of the week was really slow anyhow. And yes, I had my flu vaccine.

  • jon

    Ok, I’ve now done some research on the data behind the “worst flu season in the last 5-6 years”

    The data behind the statement comes from the CDC, you might ask “how does the CDC know I have the flu, I stayed home and I pushed fluids and I got better, how’d they know?” They don’t. You stay at home, and nurse yourself (or your spouse, or kids) back to health types don’t count towards the CDC’s numbers.

    The people who count are those who are actually tested for the flu, and confirmed to have it. Which means people need to go to a clinic or a Dr. to become part of the count.

    Which brings me to my point, Last year at this time, I believe we were all bemoaning the failed launch of the ACA website…
    Roughly 15 million people who didn’t have insurance before, had insurance…
    The CDC numbers are based (this year so far) off about 38,000 cases.

    Meanwhile the outpatient survey results that the CDC also tracks, shows we are about on par for the flu with 12-13 flu seasons, which was only slightly worse than 13-14…

    I’m really wondering if our major flu outbreak this year is fiction and that the numbers are only there because of the ACA.

    • Robert Moffitt

      So we can blame Obama for the flu now?

      • Heh – Well played.

    • Al

      …deaths are deaths. They have little to do with insurance coverage. It’s the high and early mortality that is causing concern, not just the prevalence of the flu.

      • jon

        But if you look at the CDC (which appears to focus mainly on pediatric deaths much like the article above) you’ll see 20 deaths so far this year… which is low compared to the past two years at this point in time…

        Projecting out ward I’d estimate the total pediatric deaths at about 60 nation wide by the “end” of the flu season (assuming no new strains appear late in the season)

        If you look at the other mortality chart the CDC provides the data is listed as Percent of all deaths that are caused by Pneumonia and Influenza… which if fewer people are dead for other reasons (because they have health care perhaps?) then that number will also look larger, though honestly it doesn’t appear to be much worse than the past two flu seasons to me…

        http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/

        The only numbers I see that make this look like a bad flu season is the number of reported cases, which appears to be inflated (30% of tests are coming back as positive instead of a more normal 40-50% which would mean that to get substantially more cases that even more tests are being done.)

  • Dave

    Three children have died — did any of them receive the flu shot? That information hasn’t been reported as far as I can tell.

    • jon

      I read about 98% of children who die did not get the flu shot.
      I’ve no information on those 3 children in particular.

  • >>First of all: everybody should get the flu shot.<>Myth #13: The flu vaccine causes nerve disorders such as Guillain Barre syndrome.<<

    I've already had GBS and was told that getting a flu shot would carry an increased risk of me developing it again.

    Maybe I should just do this:

    • Robert Moffitt

      There will always be exceptions. Read “everyone” to mean “just about everyone.”

    • BJ

      Everyone around you that can get it should then. That way you don’t have to wear the outfit above. Maybe just a mask and have sanitizer near by.

      • Meh, I wear it while I cook the meth.

        Wait, WHAT?!

        /Totally joking

  • Al

    The government and private sector need to work together to make the carrot more appealing. The stick rarely works as effectively when it comes to public health issues.