Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


September 13, 2012

A few minutes lost is preferable to losing days sick in bed with the flu bug

I stick myself with a needle almost every day to check my blood sugar and keep my diabetes under control. When I was a kid, I hated needles, and now here I am using them on myself.

Needle season, my own take on flu season, is coming up again, and this time I understand flu season may be earlier than usual this year. Fitting a vaccination into a schedule I can only describe as chaotic isn’t very easy, but I’ll have to find some way to do it. Most likely I’ll go to a pharmacy, pay my fee, get stuck and move along.

I know from past experience that the flu is no fun. My last fight with the flu bug gave me a miserable three days being cooped up in my apartment with a fever, chills, no sense of taste and multiple trips to the bathroom. I really should have gone to the doctor, but I kept thinking that I would quickly bounce back. My nephews A.J. and Alex, who were little germ carriers back then and most likely the vectors that had infected me, bounced back in a day. Their old uncle isn’t quite so springy. They gave me the disease smack down more than once when they were toddlers. When it comes to spreading disease children are worse than mosquitos or rats. Rats and mosquitos don’t have hands.

Worse, that was before I was a diabetic, so I don’t even want to know what impact the flu might have on me now. I’m getting that shot and turning away when the needle goes into my arm. The pain’s minimal, but it’s still the principle of the thing, the idea of metal going into my flesh, that freaks me out. I’ve seen the debris collected after a drug arrest, and the sight of hypodermic needles still make me wince inside.

Maybe that’s why I like knives so much and collect them. I’ve heard that our greatest fear can also be our greatest fascination.

I know a lot of people share my needle aversion and have trouble fitting a vaccination into their schedule, but the effort is worth it. A few minutes lost is preferable to losing whole days lying miserable in bed while the work is piling up at your office.

My problem this flu season is the fact that medical professionals are encouraging shingles vaccinations, especially if you have ever had the chicken pox. Guess what I had when I was a kid. I can still remember being covered with poxes and looking like an extra from an alien plague movie. I don’t recall feeling especially bad, but Mom insisted that I stay in bed and avoid human contact. The itching wasn’t too bad.

Now I’ve learned that the shingles virus may be lurking inside me and waiting for a weak moment in order to strike. I guess I will have to grit my teeth and get vaccinated for that, too. Shingles sounds downright painful.

The health professionals I’ve interviewed reminded me of a fact that keeps wanting to slip my mind. You’re not truly vaccinated the moment you get that shot. It takes about a week for the vaccine to start protecting you. The sooner you can get a vaccination, the better off you will be.

I know our region’s health departments promote vaccinations, but a busy public with a “it won’t happen to me” attitude doesn’t always respond, so I have a suggestion that might work especially well with younger people. Suggest that the flu vaccine also has anti-zombie properties.

A similar angle has worked for agencies promoting emergency preparedness. One agency’s web site saw a boost in visits when it included the word “zombie” in its descriptions of possible disasters. Zombies are in vogue and they get attention, so why not use them for a positive promotion?

If health nurses have problems with saying that flu vaccinations will keep you from becoming a zombie, point out that a vaccination makes you less likely to be eaten by a zombie. The people who are lethargic and slow thanks to a bout of the flu will have more trouble escaping the zombie hoards that will certainly eat the slow ones first. The zombie calendar Editor Samantha Perry gave me last Christmas is full of helpful survival tips, and staying healthy and physically fit is among them.

I’ll get my flu shot simply because I don’t want to relieve past struggles with the disease. I don’t need the possibility of a zombie plague to encourage me. Getting a flu shot will take some scheduling and a little of my time, but it will be worth the effort. The flu is gruesome enough without any zombies shambling around. Being vaccinated will keep you healthy, keep you from infecting other people, and will let you have a clear head when the zombies start marching and everybody around you is freaking out.

Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at


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