Earlier this week, we all mourned together at the news that this flu season claimed the life of a 5-year-old child at Ruby Memorial.
Illness is a terrible, scary thing — it's not a physical ailment that we can see and understand and deal with, but a microscopic threat that has the power to ruin our bodies from the inside out.
As we anxiously watch the so-called coronavirus — recently renamed to COVID-19 — in China, it's easy to forget that the flu, which we deal with every year, can be just as dangerous.
The current death toll for COVID-19 as of this writing has just breached 1,100. Which is, of course, horrible.
Meanwhile, though, for the 2019-2020 flu season, 10,000 have died and over 180,000 have been hospitalized. If this were a new disease, it would dominate headlines around the world and we'd be in a national panic. Instead, it's boring, and we want to focus on a virus with a death toll far less than half because it's new and seems scary.
Part of this is the fault of the news media, and our hands aren't clean either. Fear sells, and a looming pandemic from across the ocean is an easy boogeyman, like so many other outbreaks before it. We need to stop discounting the average, normal, yearly flu nuisance just because we're used to it, because it kills every single year.
If you haven't yet gotten your flu shot this year, we strongly encourage you to do so. Even if you personally feel that you don't have to worry about the flu, getting vaccinated helps prevent you from carrying and spreading the virus to others who are susceptible, especially children and the elderly, who may not have particularly strong immune systems.
We don't know where this unfortunate child picked up the flu virus this year, but it's easily possible the spread could have been prevented if someone they came into contact with had received their flu shot.
Our hearts are with this child's family, and we hope this serves as a cautionary tale for all of us to take the flu more seriously and get our vaccinations for the good of ourselves and others.