It’s been 100 years since the 1918 flu pandemic swept across the globe, killing more than 50 million people, including an estimated 675,000 Americans. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian (bird) origin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the time, there was no vaccine to protect against influenza infection, and if the flu virus didn’t kill you, a secondary bacterial infection usually did as there also were no antibiotics. During this period, World War I was taking place. The conditions of World War I (overcrowding and troop movement) helped the 1918 flu spread. The vulnerability of healthy young adults, combined with the lack of vaccines and treatments, created a public health crisis.
A lot of people think that because flu season typically starts in November, they should wait until October to get their flu shot so that immunity will peak when the flu season does. The truth is, there’s no good reason to wait. Generally speaking, protection provided by the influenza vaccine will last the duration of the current flu season. And there are advantages to being vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available.
Although there are several strains of the flu virus, for many people there are only two that matter: the flu and the “man flu.” It’s a stigma that persists, that while women might be up and moving around with the flu, managing a household albeit achy and sick, men are down for the count.