Winter is a time when we receive
many visitors to our area: Gray
whales, Elephant seals, Townsend’s
warblers, and your cousin
from Cincinnati. And then, there’s
‘Flu’ is short for influenza, and
stems from the ancient belief that our health can be affected
when we come under the influence of a bad star – the literal
translation of dis-aster.
We now know that the flu results from exposure to a very
earthly virus that usually originates in Asia. Flu viruses are interesting
because they jump the ‘species barrier’ – moving from
farm animals such as pigs and ducks to humans. The virus then
travels in the old-fashioned way, from hand-to-hand, hand-tomouth…
person-to-person. And considering today’s high speed
transportation systems, diseases like the flu can spread clear
around the planet in just a few days.
Mostly, the flu causes fever and aching discomfort for a week or
so. In less than one percent of the cases, however, the flu can
cause death in the very young, very old, or in people whose immune
systems are already strained.
Every so often, an especially virulent flu strain arises with catastrophic
consequences. Near the end of the First World War, the
“Spanish Flu” killed between 20 and 40 million people around
the world. More than half of U.S. casualties during the War were
killed, not by enemy action, but as a result of this flu virus.
Let’s hope this year’s flu is a mild one. Be sure to wash your
hands regularly and check with your heath care professional – a
dose of flu vaccine might be just what the doctor orders.