Who the Flu is Affecting Most

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary Several flu epidemics have been breaking out in a number of U.S. states—15 states to be exact with the worst cases of severe flu being reported in Maryland and a growing number in New York. Why is this happening on a far larger scale than anticipated? There are a couple of reasons. First, many people had put off getting a flu shot. Many felt that getting the flu would not be serious enough to land them in the hospital. Second, many people had trouble affording flu shots. Not all states have free flu shots for everyone, and in a number of states free flu shots are only available for the elderly and those with seriously compromised health systems. Finally, the unusual weather patterns have had some influence in helping to spread the scope of the flu epidemics.

All of this helped create a perfect storm, and we have not yet seen the end of it. But the people who were the most affected were those on low-income, seniors, and racial and ethnic minorities such as African Americans and Latinos. The number of cases disproportionately affected live in close quarters and not always in the best living conditions (i.e. not enough heating or getting enough nutrition). People in these categories have been hardest hit because they do not have enough resources to prepare themselves for whatever flu epidemic may come. Many cannot afford a flu shot (especially where it is not free), so they do not get a flu shot or they put it off. Many feel that the flu may not hit them or may be only a mild virus that they can shake in a few days.

As some of my neighbors found out, this scenario does not always work. I was distressed when I saw the ambulances at their homes, and concerned for their safety. I later learned that Mike, a railroad worker, blacked out and hit his face so hard on the floor that he fractured part of his facial bone. His flu was so severe that he could hardly breathe. My other neighbor Charlotte, an old widowed lady, had to spend a week in the hospital because she had trouble breathing. Indeed, the flu epidemics sent tens of thousands to their local hospitals and nationwide these flu epidemics have killed 20 plus children. Because of the number of people who have been affected, the amount of flu medications like Tamiflu and the children’s variety are now either unavailable or on back-order.

Because of the number of people who have had to go to the emergency room in their local hospitals, hundreds of thousands of people have become scared enough to want to get their flu shots now. The sheer demand has now led to a shortage in a number of states of the flu vaccine, and a long waiting list. Again those who are suffering the most are the ones who need flu shots the most—those on low-income, seniors, and racial and ethnic minorities. On a personal note, I hope that those who are suffering will be all right. I certainly wish for no one to suffer. For those who have lost loved ones to this epidemic, I wish my fullest condolences. Finally, for those who are trying to stave off the flu, I hope they will stay healthy to see out the new year. I only know that this major flu epidemic will be remembered for a long while.

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