With two of our pastoral team down for the count with the flu, I decided it was time to investigate. The flu (from "influenza"—"a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory passages causing fever, severe aching, and mucus, and often occurring in epidemics") has gone viral across the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website reports: "Influenza activity increased again according to the latest FluView report. All U.S. states but Hawaii and Oregon continue to report widespread flu activity and the number of states experiencing high influenza-like illness (ILI) activity increased from 39 states plus New York City and Puerto Rico to 42 states plus New York City and the District of Columbia" (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm).
The CDC reports "14,676 people have been hospitalized with influenza since the flu season began in October, double the number from all of last year and the highest ever recorded." Of interest to many readers of this blog is the ABC News website picture of a hospital tent with this caption: "A triage surge tent is seen outside Loma Linda University Health Center for patients infected with an influenza A strain known as H3N2, in Loma Linda, Calif. . ." (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/nationwide-flu-outbreak-shows-sign-easing-deaths-reported/story?id=52873006).
Closer to home, the Kalamazoo (Michigan) school district last Wednesday announced: "All Kalamazoo Public Schools will be closed Thursday and Friday as students and staff fight off the flu and related symptoms.
The area's largest school district made that announcement on its website on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 31. 'Given the rising percentage of students and staff with flu, flu-like, or gastrointestinal symptoms today, KPS will be closed Thursday and Fridayand will re-open on Monday, Feb. 5,' the district stated" (http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2018/01/flu_and_illnesses_close_kalama.html).
Of course, the viral tragedy of this season's flu epidemic is the number of children who have succumbed to the flu—53 and still climbing. (The CDC does not report the number of adult deaths nationwide because states are not required to report to the CDC individual seasonal flu cases or deaths for people 18 and older.)
What can we do to prevent the flu? The CDC, which recommends getting vaccinated for the flu as "the single best way to prevent [it]," also offers these helpful prevention steps (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm):
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick—when you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Stay home when you are sick—if possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing—it may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Clean your hands—washing your hands often will help protect you from germs—if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub [from ABC News: Sing "Happy Birthday" twice as you vigorously rub your hands together with soap under warm or hot water—when you finish make sure your hands have time to thoroughly dry].
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth--germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits—clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill—get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
And what does the Bible say? "Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well" (3 John 2). What a beautiful prayer for optimal health! Does that guarantee I won't get the flu this season? No. But isn't it reassuring to know that your Creator is eager to combine your healthy living with His promise "that all may go well with you." Because flu or not, our soul can still enjoy "getting along well" with God. And that's one wellness promise good for all!