Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Not fearing the flu

So, the thing is... I don't get the flu shot.

I used to. And someday, I may do so again. But, otherwise, the way I see it, I'm at the point in my lifetime where I'm feeling pretty good about avoiding the flu by being kind to my body. I don't want to get sick (like... really don't want to get sick), but I would rather roll the dice and build up the antibodies should I fall ill.

I realize this is a terribly out-of-date way to approach preventing illness.

I'm not one of those anti-vaccine people (by the way, the guy who started that whole thing about the MMR vaccine causing autism? Yeah, discredited and debunked.) Honestly, because of bad science, I can now walk down the street three blocks to the pharmacy and get a Whooping Cough vaccination because we have cases here in Washington that have stemmed from people not vaccinating their children. I like vaccinations.

But not for the flu. Like I said, someday, when I fall into a higher risk category, when my body isn't as well equipped to fight off a serious virus, sure, I'll vax up.

What's troubling to me is the way the Centers for Disease Control suggest you prevent the flu. To recap: drugs, cover your mouth, drugs. The "cover-your-mouth" section entertains me, in a dark way. Read it too carefully and, soon, you're walking around in a surgical mask and gloves, bankrolling Purell and probably, inadvertently, making yourself more vulnerable to diseases. I like to think my immune system is a baseball player. That bats really well. Why is it, with few exceptions, knocking viruses and infection out of the park? I've let it get tons of practice.

I used to ride the subway in New York, bare hands on one of those stainless steel standee poles. My eye would itch. I'd scratch it with the hand that touched the pole. Didn't care. You might think that's gross. I think it's called building immunity. Not exposing myself to those germs means not getting the immune system benefit.

Moreover, where are the lines from the CDC about just, you know, trying to be healthy? Being kind to your body? Letting your immune system have every possible advantage?

When I read about the current flu outbreak, I grab a glass of water. Dude, viruses HATE hydration. I don't care if I have to visit the toilet 50 times a day. That's a sign I'm drinking a lot of liquids and making my body as challenging as flipping possible for a virus to thrive in. I drink alcohol a fair amount. Optimistically, I'd like to think that means my white blood cells are used to operating with an elevated BAC and when I cut back on alcohol (like I do when I know there are a lot of sick people around), they turn into super white blood cells that probably use automatic weapons. Either way, cutting back on spirits can only help my immune system battle.

On top of this, I eat pretty well. I work out nearly every day.

I've spent the last five years traveling on flipping airplanes every week or so and I still, roughly, get two colds a year. Those colds, by the way? Same kind of virus that could be the flu. So those colds even help me by providing me with antibodies.

We live in what is probably the most germ-ophobic culture in human history. For 50,000 years, we have not only survived but thrived, fighting off maladies that could have leveled us. Like, you know, smallpox, which had a mortality rate over 30 percent. While the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic had a mortality rate of, perhaps 20% (likely much lower), the "usual" flu has a mortality rate of 0.1%

Maybe it's because being sick these days, more often than not, means "working from home while feeling like all hell." Maybe we're all genuinely afraid of death. Whatever the reason, we believe the flu is here to kill us.

In my case, I believe my body is built - except in extreme circumstances - to kill the flu.

No comments: