Although the swine flu carries a funny name, it is no joke. Not at all.
In fact, the strain of the virus invading California and other parts of the country -- called H1N1 -- has already proven deadly.
Hospital emergency rooms throughout the Bay Area are showing increases in the number of people reporting flu-like symptoms.
Even though this is just the beginning of the flu season for California, a woman in the East Bay and one in the South Bay have already died. Several other deaths have been reported statewide.
Health officials tell us that the current strain appears similar to the one that ran rampant in 2009. That should give everyone pause because in the 2009-10 flu season, 284,000 people -- including 657 Californians -- died from swine flu worldwide.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported the flu is in full swing in many parts of the country. The latest CDC figures from the final week of 2013 show significant flu activity in 25 states, especially, as one might expect, the bigger ones such as New York, Texas and Illinois.
Health experts tell us that classic flu symptoms include aching body, fever, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose and extreme sneezing. But anyone who has ever been afflicted by this particular strain of flu knows that each of those things manifest in exceptionally aggressive and uncomfortable forms.
During the 2009 outbreak, many people did not get a flu shot because of a shortage of the vaccine, but health officials tell us the flu vaccine is plentiful this year and can be obtained at hospitals, clinics and many pharmacies. In fact, one can even get a shot while shopping in many grocery stores. That means there is not good reason not to get the injection.
Older adults and children under 5 as well as those with heart or lung disease, diabetes, asthma or who may be pregnant are at much greater risk and should be vaccinated.
The CDC advises everyone to get a flu shot each year, take preventive action by washing hands and avoiding contact with sick people, know the signs of the flu and treat them immediately once they appear and faithfully take all anti-viral medicine once the flu has been identified.
Oh yes, most importantly, this flu is not something one can "power though." It is neither heroic nor admirable to show up at work or school. It is stupid for you, and inconsiderate of others.
This may seem like common sense, but it is advice that is often ignored with unfortunate consequence. Let's change that this year.