If you have your health, noth­ing else re­ally mat­ters

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey (richard@glen­gar­rynews.ca)

Per­spec­tive is very im­por­tant at this par­tic­u­lar time in our evo­lu­tion when every­one is ei­ther be­ing of­fended or of­fend­ing some­one, or sim­ply tak­ing of­fence at the slight­est in­con­ve­nience. We do have many First World trou­bles, do we not?

Every­one is a real or imag­ined vic­tim. For ex­am­ple, the other day a cus­tomer in a gro­cery store went berserk. Was the price of milk go­ing through the roof? Had bread be­come un­af­ford­able? Were the ba­nanas not ripe enough?

No, he was an­gry be­cause his loy­alty points were not be­ing counted, for an en­tire 24-hour pe­riod. This mi­nor an­noy­ance was in­flicted on cus­tomers dur­ing the tran­si­tion time when the gro­cery and drug store gi­ant was meld­ing re­ward cards. By mid-day, cashiers were hoarse as they re­peat­edly as­sured puz­zled con­sumers that all would be fine the next day, when they could con­tinue to pile up those points and buy more prod­ucts and be re­warded for their loy­alty.

But the check-out Sys­tem was slow. And, gasp, there was a lag be­tween card swipes; pre­cious sec­onds were be­ing wasted be­fore the Trans­ac­tion Com­pleted mes­sage flashed.

As technology has ac­cel­er­ated our lives, machines are gain­ing more con­trol over us.

Valu­able time can be lost when us­ing a voice au­to­mated phone re­cep­tion set-up.

In­cred­i­bly, in this day and age, cer­tain machines of­fer an op­tion from the dark ages: “If you have a ro­tary dial phone, stay on the line...” Talk about a ref­er­ence to the an­cient past! And then, strangely enough, the com­puter voice says, “For ser­vice, press 1.” Ob­vi­ously, that is im­pos­si­ble to do with a ro­tary dial phone, but for a few sec­onds, the caller was won­der­ing if he did pos­sess an old-fash­ioned de­vice, if the spin­ner thingee could some­how be pressed so a real per­son would be alerted that a Lud­dite was seek­ing as­sis­tance.

While to­day’s phones do ev­ery­thing from tak­ing pho­tos to re­motely turn­ing up the ther­mo­stat, many Ice Storm survivors have re­tained the quaint, out­dated dial giz­mos, be­cause many of them still work even when the power goes out.

But ev­ery­thing seems mi­nor when we are not feel­ing well. If you have your health, you have ev­ery­thing.

This is more than a cliché at this time of year when The Flu is af­fect­ing so many peo­ple.

“Over­all, in­fluenza ac­tiv­ity in Canada re­mains high but there is some in­di­ca­tion that ac­tiv­ity is start­ing to slow down,” ac­cord­ing to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s dis­ease track­ing re­port, which, as one would sus­pect, is chock full of in­ter­est­ing lab data.

“Most in­di­ca­tors re­main in the higher range of ex­pected lev­els for this time of year. From Jan­uary 14-20, the per­cent­age of lab­o­ra­tory test pos­i­tive for in­fluenza B con­tin­ued to in­crease while the per­cent­age of lab­o­ra­tory test pos­i­tive for in­fluenza A re­mained sta­ble. In case you were won­der­ing, the ma­jor­ity of in­fluenza de­tec­tions con­tinue to be A(H3N2), al­though 40% of de­tec­tions were in­fluenza B.

To date most of those who have died from the flu have been 65 years of age and older, but the “bug” can hit any­one.

Get the shot

Re­gard­less of what you may be­lieve, im­mu­niza­tion works, ac­cord­ing to the ex­perts.

Chil­dren vac­ci­nated against in­fluenza are sig­nif­i­cantly less likely to ex­pe­ri­ence se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions from the virus that could land them in hos­pi­tal, new re­search from Pub­lic Health On­tario (PHO) and the In­sti­tute for Clin­i­cal Eval­u­a­tive Sciences (ICES) has found.

Pub­lished in the Nov. 17 is­sue of PLOS ONE, the study found that young chil­dren who were fully vac­ci­nated against in­fluenza saw their risk of hos­pi­tal­iza­tion due to in­fluenza in­fec­tion drop by 60 per cent over­all. Even for chil­dren par­tially vac­ci­nated against in­fluenza (i.e., those who re­ceived one dose of in­fluenza vac­cine dur­ing their first in­fluenza sea­son), risk of hos­pi­tal­iza­tion due to in­fluenza dropped by 39 per cent.

“In­fluenza can cause se­ri­ous ill­ness, es­pe­cially in young chil­dren, but there hasn’t been a lot of re­search that has ex­am­ined the mag­ni­tude of the in­fluenza vac­cine’s ef­fec­tive­ness at pre­vent­ing kids from get­ting re­ally sick and be­ing hos­pi­tal­ized,” says Dr. Jeff Kwong, a sci­en­tist in Ap­plied Im­mu­niza­tion Re­search and Eval­u­a­tion at PHO and a se­nior sci­en­tist at ICES, who is the se­nior au­thor of the re­search pa­per.

The re­searchers ex­am­ined nearly 10,000 On­tario hos­pi­tal records of chil­dren aged six months to un­der five years where a re­s­pi­ra­tory spec­i­men was col­lected and tested for in­fluenza; 12.8 per cent showed lab­con­firmed in­fluenza. The sci­en­tists in­cluded four in­fluenza sea­sons – 2010-11 to 2013-14 – and broke the data down to com­pare chil­dren who were fully vac­ci­nated, par­tially vac­ci­nated and those who didn’t get the vac­cine. They also com­pared variations by age group and the cir­cu­lat­ing in­fluenza strains each sea­son.

Over­all, fully vac­ci­nated chil­dren aged 2 to 4 saw their risk of hos­pi­tal­iza­tion due to in­fluenza drop by 67 per cent while those aged six to 23 months saw their risk drop by 48 per cent. There is more. Re­searchers have con­firmed a link be­tween flu and heart at­tack. Chances of a heart at­tack are in­creased six-fold dur­ing the first seven days after de­tec­tion of lab­o­ra­tory-con­firmed in­fluenza in­fec­tion, ac­cord­ing to a new study by re­searchers at the ICES and PHO.

The technology that has al­legedly im­proved our lives forces us to march to its beat.

“Our find­ings are im­por­tant be­cause an as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween in­fluenza and acute my­ocar­dial in­farc­tion re­in­forces the im­por­tance of vac­ci­na­tion,” says Dr. Kwong.

In the study pub­lished in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine, the re­searchers found a sig­nif­i­cant as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween acute re­s­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions, par­tic­u­larly in­fluenza, and acute my­ocar­dial in­farc­tion.

The risk may be higher for older adults, pa­tients with in­fluenza B in­fec­tions, and pa­tients ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their first heart at­tack. The re­searchers also found el­e­vated risk with in­fec­tion from other re­s­pi­ra­tory viruses.

“Our find­ings, com­bined with pre­vi­ous ev­i­dence that in­fluenza vac­ci­na­tion re­duces car­dio­vas­cu­lar events and mor­tal­ity, sup­port in­ter­na­tional guide­lines that ad­vo­cate for in­fluenza im­mu­niza­tion in those at high risk of a heart at­tack,” says Dr. Kwong.

And, in case you didn’t know, cud­dling live chick­ens can make you sick.

Poul­try is ver­sa­tile, pro­vid­ing eggs, meat and feath­ers, but it is not a species that one would in­stinc­tively hug, un­less there are no pup­pies avail­able.

In a mes­sage di­rected pri­mar­ily at ur­ban peo­ple who raise chick­ens in back­yards, PHO stresses that this prac­tice has its risks.

Sal­mo­nella or campy­lobac­ter in­fec­tions are the most com­monly re­ported in­fec­tions as­so­ci­ated with back­yard chick­ens and live poul­try. The bac­te­ria can also be found on the eggs of in­fected chick­ens and can be trans­ferred onto feath­ers and the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Peo­ple who pet or cud­dle the chick­ens or touch con­tam­i­nated items can ac­ci­den­tally in­gest the bac­te­ria, caus­ing them to get sick. Live chick­ens can also carry in­fec­tious bac­te­ria, such as E. coli.

So, re­gard­less of where you live, never kiss or snug­gle with live poul­try, no mat­ter how cute the hen may be.

And, be care­ful where and how you tread. These are dan­ger­ous times for all of us who must ven­ture out into our ice-cov­ered world.

It’s no pic­nic out there try­ing to nav­i­gate slip­pery drive­ways, side­walks and park­ing lots. Now con­sider the ex­tra chal­lenges faced by the el­derly and the hand­i­capped.

This is a good time to get out of the fast lane. Slow down. If you fall down and break a hip, you’ll have your­self a real prob­lem.

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