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The Quick 10: 10 Flu Facts

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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