“I had a little bird, it’s name was enza, I opened the window and influenza.”

ABC World News (1/9/13, lead story, 2:40, Sawyer) reported, “The flu sweeping the country has hospitals reeling and searching for new ways to cope with the flood of patients.” The World News featured hospitals and cities around the country, showcasing efforts in Boston, where Mayor Menino declared a public health emergency and Massachusetts General Hospital which has a 24-hour wait time; a Pennsylvania hospital with a tent outside; and Minnesota, where doctors are asking the sick to stay home to prevent the spread of the disease.

It’s looking like a bad year for respiratory infections. What with real influenza activity barely reaching California we can expect the worst still lies before us. This year’s influenza vaccine appears to be a good match for the spreading epidemic so, as always, vaccination remains the key defense against influenza.

Add to this what appears to be a greater than usual season of RSV (that’s the bug currently filling the EDs), and a record breaking year for pertussis (42,000 confirmed US cases in 2012 and also vaccine-preventable), and we can expect a busy and disruptive year as far as the health of our communities and businesses.

Part of the problem is indirect. If you or your staff get influenza, you or they will stay home or, worse, spread it to other staff. They will, in turn, take it home to their kids. Sick kids (unvaccinated) means more sick days taken off by the parents, well or not.

To not be vaccinated is a plea to be saved by, as I have often put it, “The Three Deities of Denial” – Faith, Hope, and Luck – not the most reliable strategy.

Marshall Kubota, MD

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