In the Grippe
Influenza is running through Austin now at a brisk clip. Since there is more than one strain going around, and the medical community is no longer checking for the so called “Swine” flu, no one is quite sure of just what strain they are getting. I suppose that since the treatment and symptoms of the two flues are basically the same, it does not matter a whole lot once you come down with it. You still shiver and sweat and ache for about a week.
I can recall three separate occasions of my contracting influenza. A lot of people think they have the flu when they get a bad cold, or sometimes when they have stomach problems (the spectacularly misnamed “stomach flu), but the “true flu” is a different animal, if viruses are animals. If you ever had the flu, you’d know you had it. In fact, it would probably cause you to get vaccinated each and every year against that particular strain. That is what turned me into a flu shot evangelical. I had it two years in a row back in the 80s, and that was enough for me.
So I went down last night to get a “seasonal” flu shot (which does not protect against the swine flu, aids or other STD’s and may have certain side effects). I went to the “Minute Clinic” at my CVS Pharmacy where my insurance would cover the shot. When I arrived I began to see the shortsightedness of giving flu shots at a Minute Clinic. The Minute Clinic is an invention of CVS to try to have people diagnosed with diseases which require drug therapy, prescription or otherwise, right in the drug store. The theory is sound. It is certainly convenient to walk three feet over from the Doctor (or Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner, whoever is doing the prescribing that day) to pick up your drugs. It is the same reason that Optometrists can be found in optician shops and, for that matter, the same reason why the sell popcorn at the movies. There is nothing as desirable to a seller as a captive customer, especially one with 102 degree fever.
The problem is that the Minute Clinics are stuffed back into a corner of the drug store and there is no “waiting room”. People kind of mill around and cough and sneeze on each other. Worse, to sign in, you have to do about a fifteen minute check in procedure on a tap screen computer (that everyone in front of you has already tapped with their infected fingers). So those just there for a shot are taking quite a risk. Only CVS has figured out how to get the people most scared of the flu into contact with the people already suffering from it in such close quarters. It’s not good for the patient, but it is a step up for the Minute Clinic concept of a “point of diagnosis” drug sale. Now CVS can actually make large groups of people sick who would otherwise have never had a sniffle except for the fact that they decided to get the Flu shot (which does not help you until at least a week after injection). For years pharmacies have been trying to figure out ways to increase drug sale, now that they have hit upon this strategy of intentionally making people sick, they are going to really see the profits roll in.
Well call me cynical, but I figured out what was going on at the Minute Clinic pretty fast. I left what was at least a thirty minute wait in an area which sounded like a TB ward and went home. My plan was to get up early this morning and be at the clinic when the doors opened. I would have made it too, except I misplaced my glasses this morning and my vision is so bad that I need glasses to find my glasses. When I finally stepped on them, I had lost 10 precious minutes and thus was only second in line at the clinic. First in line, already punched in on the computer, was Typhoid Mary. I’m not kidding, this was a thirtyish year old woman in the midst of actively dying. I watched her go into the Doctor’s office and expected that if I saw her come out again it would be feet first. Indeed she stayed in with the Doctor for over half an hour while the corner at the clinic filled up with more of the living dead. There were also a couple of guys my age just in for flu shots. One of them was smart enough to move over to the magazine rack, thirty feet away, where I was cowering. He gave me a nod and a knowing grin.
When Typhoid Mary was finally released and was having her will notarized by the CVS Notary, I was called in. The Doctor was a young attractive lady whose visage reminded me of those in the Civil War movies after they have sawed off about 8,000 legs following the battle of Shiloh. “Pretty rough ?” I asked. “it was wild yesterday” she responded “and today looks like it is going to be more of the same, you are lucky you came in, we are almost out of Flu Vaccine”.
“What good is the vaccine going to do me anyway ?” I asked,” it does not protect me against the Swine Flu, and I bet that’s what your last patient, Ms. Lazarus had.”
“Well, you are right” she said “but think how much better you are going to feel after you get the Swine Flu knowing that you at least can’t get the seasonal flu.” Well, she had me there. So I rolled up my sleeve and assured her that I had no egg allergy. She gave me he shot. It must have been some new technique where they inject it into the bone, it hurt like hell. “Any advice on avoiding the Swine Flu ?” I asked. “Sure” she replied, “Stay away from places like this. “