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It'd be silly, selfish not to get flu shot

A child at the NUMC Pediatric Practice in

A child at the NUMC Pediatric Practice in East Meadow gets a flu vaccine. (Jan. 11, 2013) Credit: Jim Staubitser

Sorry if you have the flu.

I got slammed a few New Year's Eves ago. Chills. Fever. A horrible aching feeling. The rot lingered into the second week of January. I thought I would die. Then, I wished I would die. Never once have I joked about the flu since then.

All 50 states are reporting influenza activity. Across America, some drugstores report they're running low on the flu vaccine -- or they're out altogether. It's still too soon to predict how severe this flu season will be.

"The only thing predictable about the flu," says Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, "is that it's unpredictable."

Gee, thanks, Doc. And where does that leave us?

We're fresh from family get-togethers at Christmas and New Year's, a perfect petri dish for virus transmission. At least now the kids have a great excuse for not kissing Grandma. And we're finally back at work, where fewer and fewer of us get paid sick days any more. So we go in with sniffles and who-knows-what-else, too broke to stay at home, spreading our communicable diseases with every handshake, sneeze and water-cooler stop.

Ah-Choo! God bless you! Ambulance, please!

No wonder some employers are discovering: In the long run, sick days might actually be an economy move.

"Don't be selfish," warns Arthur Caplan, who heads the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. "A flu shot isn't just for you. It's also for those around you."

On Saturday, the latest flu-related fatalities included: 27 in Minnesota, 23 in Pennsylvania, 18 in Massachusetts, and 12 in New York City.

"Most people," he said, "naturally assume that if someone is sticking a needle in their arm, it is to prevent them from getting sick. In fact, flu vaccination is for your family's good, your neighbor's good and the good of the newborn baby down the street."

The flu shots, the CDC calculates, are only 62 percent effective. "But that's still pretty good -- and not just for you," the medical ethicist said. "You should get one if you can."


1. Spanish

2. Hong Kong

3. Bird

4. Swine

5. Rockin' Pneumonia and Boogie Woogie

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