As my entire family is recovering from a mammoth bout with an unknown “bug,” my mind is on sickness and disease. Then, this morning, I got a spam email from Walgreens reminding me that it’s not too late to get my flu shot.
Until I was in graduate school, I didn’t realize what “the flu” actually was. As a youngster wet behind the ears, I thought the flu was basically what you had if you were vomiting and it wasn’t food poisoning. Of course, back then, there wasn’t much education about flu and basically nobody got flu shots unless you were elderly or if your immune system was compromised. Still, our societal vernacular is to label someone as having “stomach flu” if they are vomiting. This is not the flu (influenza) at all. Rather, it is gastroenteritis.
As WebMD puts it, stomach flu is a “popular, but inaccurate” term for gastroenteritis. If it is so prevalent to refer to gastroenteritis (abdominal cramps, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, fever, headache) as a form of flu, I wonder how many people get the flu shot thinking that it is protecting them from the stomach flu.
There is no vaccination against gastroenteritis (except rotavirus, which is only given to very small children). The flu shot, on the other hand, is a vaccination against influenza, which basically mimics cold symptoms only they come on more suddenly and are accompanied by muscle aches, fever, and a dry cough.
Ok. What does this have to do with this blog? Well, I often discuss the overarching control that the government tires to have in our lives. This issue of seasonal flu is only one example, but they are beginning to become more didactic and forceful about it, which strikes me as condescending. At the same time that people are encouraged by everyone and their brother to get the flu shot, we aren’t even educated about what the flu actually is.
So, maybe you already knew all of this information. Good for you. But, there are still a lot of people who need to know. Remember, there are states that require kids to get flu shots to go to school despite the fact that these vaccines have been shown to make kids more vulnerable to novel pandemic strains of influenza.
For the record, I don’t mind if anyone chooses to get the flu shot. Obviously, I want to see this as an option for people who find it valuable. But, I happen not to value it and don’t want to see it become mandatory in any arena.
For a handy fact sheet about comparing the stomach flu (gastroenteritis) to the actual flu (influenza), click here.