From thestar.com 2018-02-08

At my house, we didn’t have a clinical name for the condition that gripped us shortly before Christmas and even now, more than six weeks later, still lingers.

“It’s in my chest, I’m sure,” I said to my husband as my coughing became so wracked my ribs felt bruised and broken. “It’s trying to get into my ears,” he replied, in between his own coughing fits.

It. Like something out of a horror movie, It took over our lives, forcing us to cancel a trip to Montreal for New Year’s. A brand new baby and two beloved 90-somethings there could not be subject to our contagious “droplets.”

My husband recovered first, and went about his working days while I remained in the coughing zone, unable to speak for more than a few minutes, constantly coughing and then wheezing like an old accordion.

I trudged to the doctor only when I felt I had reached a new phase of It.

I was variously prescribed a short-run antibiotic — I had a fever and the doctor felt it was heading for my sinuses — a chest X-ray (clear), a puffer, which I’m still using, and most of all, patience.

Yet even with my fever, I was never diagnosed with influenza. More like a “secondary infection” that piled on after the first.

Anecdotally, this has seemed like a severe flu season. People have been pushing each other away like mad. “I won’t kiss or hug you,” they say upon greeting. “I am probably OK, but …”

I have heard many war stories: entire families stricken, one woman whose already compromised roommate suffered such respiratory distress she ended up in a hospital isolation ward while she, sick herself, “just lay on the couch and wished I were dead.”

Feeling marginally better, we sat in a movie theatre while the stranger next to me coughed so violently I offered him a lozenge. He gratefully took it.

When I thought I was more or less better I went to a social event where I reassured concerned friends my cough was merely post-nasal drip — only I inadvertently said “post-natal” drip to great hilarity among women of a certain age.

But the very next day in fact I entered my sickest phase yet, complete with fever, and felt not only crummy but guilty. What had I been thinking going out?

I am lucky. My job as a self-employed writer is perfect for protracted stretches of moving from couch to computer. No disruption there. In fact, my daily wardrobe is all about this routine, sick or well: unbelievably comfortable black fleece leggings from Giant Tiger ($8.99) topped with a cashmere wrap. You’ve got to have some elegance.

And unfortunately for the world, but also luckily for me, the daytime news cycle has been more gripping than any weepy movie I might watch in self-pity.

I have no young kids or aged parents to take care of. Just my husband and me. And a constitution that is fairly hardy. Plus I did everything responsible, including getting the flu vaccine, staying away from emergency rooms and wearing a mask at my doctor’s office

Yet my bout with It has given me a frightening taste of what if. What if I never got better?

And in the event of a real flu pandemic, which officials say is at some point inevitable, how on Earth would we all cope? More than one current sufferer has remarked that if this were 1918, when millions died from the Spanish flu, we’d all be dead by now.

We have a right to be frustrated by the low effectiveness of this season’s flu shot. Numbers from the Public Health Agency of Canada and other experts show the vaccine is preventing only 10 to 20 per cent of infections caused by the dominant H3N2 strain affecting Canadians.

Medical experts say they are working on a universal flu shot, which wouldn’t depend on any one strain but that’s still years away.

In the meantime, there’s now. “We’re right in the thick of things now,” Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health at Toronto Public Health told me in an interview She stressed there’s a “double epidemic” going on, with more adults being hit than children.

While this year’s flu shot has been a wimp against influenza A, according to Dr. Dubey, it’s fared better (55 per cent) against the influenza B strain.

Dubey also makes the very good point that we shouldn’t blame a failed flu vaccine for not covering all these other non-influenza viruses out there.

I clearly have what is known as a post-viral cough, but it is being helped by that puffer.

Read more here