The best defense

My husband started coughing shortly after Christmas. What began as an irritating throat scratch soon mushroomed into a full-fledged flu. You know the one: that nasty viral infection that’s seemingly plagued everyone with incessant coughs, sneezing, fever and enough mucus to cover a small nation.

I experienced it myself in mid-December, but the bug seemed to pass relatively quickly then. Now, as I watch my husband finally return to the land of the living, I'm more worried whenever I start to sneeze. And for good reason: This winter, seven people have died from the flu in California—five in Sacramento, all via a new strain of swine flu, according to the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services. Their ages: 37, 46, 53, 56 and 61. That's damn scary. We think of the flu as something typically deadly to only the very young and the very old.

I'd probably feel better armed against illness if I'd gotten a flu shot, but the truth is until recently, I'd always been somewhat skeptical of such things. Not in a Jenny McCarthy, anti-vaccination, government-conspiracy way; rather, I held strong to the belief that the best defense against a cold or flu simply meant eating healthy, exercising and getting plenty of sleep. If I did start feeling ill, I reasoned, it was nothing a day spent binge-watching Downton Abbey and sucking down some vitamin C drops couldn't cure.

Now, I realize the best defense is offense. If you want to leave the house and head to the office, a store, restaurant or any other public space, then you're at the mercy of other people's germs.

We're in the mucous thick of it—January and February are peak flu months, but it's not too late to stay healthy. Type in your ZIP code at to find the closest place to up your defenses.