Don’t underestimate the flu

Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep influenza at bay

The Ebola virus’ presence in the United States is cause for concern, but what’s particularly disconcerting is the failure of a Dallas hospital to accurately diagnose the deadly illness in a patient who evidently had reported he recently returned from West Africa, ground zero for the disease.

That man, Thomas Duncan, died early Wednesday, Oct. 8.

An estimated 2,069 people in Liberia alone have succumbed to the virus during this recent epidemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning to Americans, urging them to avoid nonessential travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, because of this unprecedented Ebola outbreak.

Here in the States, mitigating the threat of the disease is largely up to those in the health care community. Medical professionals must spot potential threats to public health quickly and isolate anyone with this communicable disease. Ebola spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, so it should be relatively easy to contain. With the proper protocols in place, the U.S. will remain safeguarded.

In fact, what we should be more worried about is the spread of influenza, an endemic seasonal respiratory illness that is highly contagious and can be life-threatening. The flu is transmittable from those infected to others without direct contact, according to the CDC.

But there’s an easy way to prevent infection: getting vaccinated. Locally, Enloe Medical Center already has held a couple of clinics, offering the vaccine to the community at no charge. This Saturday, Oct. 11, the hospital is providing yet another opportunity, this time during Enloe’s Community Wellness Expo at the corner of Fifth and Magnolia streets, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In recent years, with the emergence of the pandemic H1N1 virus (swine flu), getting vaccinated has never been more important. However, the flu has always been a serious, contagious disease, particularly when it comes to vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, infirm, pregnant and young children. The CDC recommends a yearly vaccine as the best protection. Do not wait.