Lileks: Let’s play Flu Shot Roulette yet again

September 14, 2018

Roll up your sleeve: Its questionably effective flu shot season again. They are now available at walk-in clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, tattoo parlors, corner lemonade stands and, soon, Redbox movie kiosks, which will deploy a needle and jab you while youre scrolling through the list of movies you didnt want to see in the theater but somehow now feel obliged to see at home. So to prepare for whats ahead, here are some frequently asked flu questions:

Whats this years flavor? This years strain is T2T(867)5309. It has top notes of mint, leather and phlegm.

Will it be bad? Its always bad. First Google result, from this week: Bad flu season ahead. Second Google result, a post from last year: Why this years flu season is so bad. Now, Im just an ol country scribe without no medical learnin, but Id say its bad because its the flu. Note: For most people, itll be a great, fantastic flu season, because they wont get it.

Does the shot work? In a good year, according to a report I read that quoted an actual doctor, the flu shot is 50 percent effective your glass-half-full-of-NyQuil-type situation. In a different report, a doctor said the flu itself lacks self-awareness, and has no moral culpability, but he was a doctor of philosophy. In a bad year, the shots effectiveness is under 20 percent, meaning that if you sit quietly, you can actually hear the virus laughing at your antibodies.

Why do we call it the flu? That sounds quite pleasant, when you think about it. Why not the flurg, or the flustablurt, or the hackabolus? The term flu, of course, is short for influenza, which is Latin for influentia and came from the belief that epidemics were due to the influence of the stars. Meaning, in short, that this all has to do with astrology, so check your horoscopes. The word was first applied to an epidemic in 1743 in Italy. The treatment was bloodletting, leeches and drilling holes in the patients head. If the first treatment didnt work, people usually gave up. Copays rarely covered a second drilling.

How do I get the flu? I got a shot, and now I want my moneys worth. Its easy. Lick your hands frequently after using public transportation or operating doorknobs. When someone sneezes, wave your hands in the air and then jam your fingers in your eyes. Offer the crook of your elbow to anyone who seems like theyre about to sneeze.

How do I know its not a cold? Flu usually produces a fever, which causes bizarre dreams. If you wake convinced you were in a cave helping Al Franken put shoes on an angry centaur, its the flu.

Didnt you write this column last flu season? Yes, but it was about a different strain, so technically this is all new material.

james.lileks@startribune.com 612-673-7858 Twitter: @Lileks facebook.com/james.lileks

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