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The Quick 10: 10 Flu Facts

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It's flu shot time around here, so I guess I have the flu on the brain. I thought if I did, maybe you guys do too, so I did a little research today.
WebMD and had a particularly interesting article on flu myths. I summarized a couple of their myths, but you can get the full article here. Disclaimer, though: If you end up surfing around WebMD and diagnosing yourself with all kinds of horrible ailments (which I have a tendency to do), I take no responsibility.

flu

1. The flu vaccine can't give you the flu. The vaccines only contain a dead piece of the flu virus, and a dead virus can't infect you. There is a nasal vaccine that contains a live virus, but that particular vaccine is designed to seek and destroy the part of the virus that actually makes you sick.

2. You can treat the flu. Within 48 hours of contracting it, a doctor can prescribe antiviral medicine that will help. It's not going to get rid of it entirely, but it will lessen the time that you're curled up on the couch, watching bad daytime T.V. and wanting to die.

3. The Spanish Flu is the most well-known pandemic of the flu "“ it took out anywhere from 40 to 100 million people from 1918 to 1920. It was so severe that it registered a Level 5 on the Pandemic Severity Scale, which is the highest level that exists. The mortality rate was incredibly high "“ some estimates say up to 20 percent. People that got it and survived, though, include FDR, Walt Disney, Mary Pickford, General Pershing and Woodrow Wilson.

sykes4. Recently (September), Sir Mark Sykes of England was dug up so scientists could study the Spanish Flu virus, hoping to understand more about the current bird flu. Even though Sykes has been six feet under for the past 90 years, the fact that he was buried in a lead coffin makes scientists hope that the virus has been preserved.

5. In the U.S. alone, the flu season results in 36,000-ish deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations. As if those facts weren't painful enough, the flu costs Americans a collective $10 billion annually.

6. While we have the Freshman 15, the Brits have Freshers Flu. Up to 90 percent of people during their first few weeks at college end up getting sick, and whether it's actually the flu or not (it's usually just a cold), the nickname has a nice ring to it.

7. People who say they have the "stomach flu" probably don't really have the flu. It's just a nickname that came about because you feel crappy in similar ways to the real flu. But, WebMD says, if you don't have fever or body ache, you likely don't have the flu "“ just a gastrointestinal virus of some sort.

8. This one is Snopes-verified "“ Donald Rumsfeld owns stock in Gilead Sciences, the company that makes Tamiflu. Tamiflu, for those that don't know (I didn't), is a drug that can reduce the severity of the flu. It's one of those drugs I mentioned up in #2. Some people think this is a big conspiracy theory "“ that the avian flu and other strains have become a huge deal in recent years because the government, including Rumsfeld, wanted to make a tidy profit from his stocks. Seems a little farfetched to me, but"¦ who knows?

9. The flu has been around for a loooong time "“ Hippocrates wrote of an illness with a description closely matching today's modern flu symptoms.

10. The most recent flu pandemic was the Hong Kong Flu in 1968-69, which registered as a Level 2 on the Pandemic Severity Index. About 500,000 people were infected in Hong Kong, about 50 million were infect in the U.S. Around 34,000 of those 50 million died.

P.S.: Ryan reminded me in the comments that I said I was going to work Clark Gable into my Q10 all week. So, here are your farfetched Gable-related bits of flu trivia:

  • Gable was probably less likely than most to catch the flu because he had a "fetish for cleanliness", according to his biographer, David Bret.
  • One evening, he told his wife, Kay, he thought he was coming down with the flu because he was feeling poorly. He went to bed early. The next day, he was changing the tire on his Jeep when he he started having severe chest pains - the flu-like symptoms were actually a sign of his oncoming heart attack.
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    According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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    How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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    If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

    These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

    In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

    A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

    You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

    Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

    If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

    Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

    [h/t Thrillist]

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