Trivializing the Flu – It’s What Healthy Adults Tend To Do
Sep 27, 2016

It’s not uncommon for healthy adults to skip their annual flu vaccine.  In fact, it’s estimated that only about 40% of adults receive an influenza vaccine each year – a preventive measure that the CDC recommends for everyone age 6 months of age and older, with rare exception.

While adults tend to understand that the flu can be dangerous and sometimes even deadly, they often don’t get vaccinated because they just don’t consider themselves at risk.


I imagine it’s because we’re living in a time when modern medicine is so advanced.  The average American just doesn’t consider it likely that a healthy adult could die from something so common as the flu? One would imagine that those at greatest risk of death from flu would be young children, the elderly or people who have underlying health conditions, right?

ceciliaheadshot-250x378While it is true that there are certain demographics of people who may be more likely to suffer severe consequences from flu, it does not mean that a healthy adult is not also at risk of hospitalization or death. As Michael Pulgini explains, the flu is “aggressive, sneaky, and potentially deadly” and “no one is invincible” just because you are young, strong, or healthy.

You see, Michael is one of those healthy adults who refused the flu shot last season, citing that he felt it wasn’t necessary and suspecting it might make him sick.  Michael ended up contracting the flu, but recovered after about five days of body aches, fever, runny nose and cough.

But what continues to haunt Michael today is the fact that his wife also fell victim to the flu – but sadly, she never recovered.  

Michael now lives with the horrifying memory of watching his beautiful wife Cecilia suffer and die from the very disease that he had previously trivialized.

After Michael had recovered, Cecilia started to show signs of illness, such as runny nose, body aches and pains, and a weird symptom that caused her upper lip to swell.  She made several visits to the doctor, and the last visit occurred about eight or nine days after her first symptoms appeared.  This time, she was complaining of shortness of breath.  The doctor gave her an injection to help open up her airways, but within 30 hours Cecilia was in terrible distress and her breathing was very rapid and shallow.  A chest x-ray at the hospital showed one lung was completely covered in puss and fluid from an infection.

cecilialipDoctors explained that the influenza virus continued to replicate, hitting Cecilia full force and completely overpowering her body’s ability to fight off the infection.

They also told Michael something he will never forget;

If she had been vaccinated against influenza, there was a 90% chance she wouldn’t be here [in the hospital] like this.”

Sadly, Cecilia was put into a medically induced coma.  They intubated her and put her on a ventilator since she was unable to breathe on her own. All the while, Michael believed in his heart that she would pull through because she was young and strong.

But Michael was wrong.  He explains,

I watched my beautiful wife lay in that hospital bed fighting for her life for eight agonizing days. It was the hardest thing I have ever endured, worse than combat. Then her kidneys started to fail, and on the morning of the eighth day, at 7:30 in the morning, her body couldn’t fight any more. In the end, Cecilia died of pneumonia complications of her influenza virus.

It is painful to grasp that complications of the regular seasonal flu killed the perfectly healthy 45-year old love of my life. It seems impossible that this should happen in the 21st Century with all our modern medicine.  But what hurts the most is knowing this was likely preventable. We did not use the best medical tool we have available: an annual flu shot. I now know, too late, that the flu virus is aggressive, sneaky, and potentially deadly.  I will have to face the rest of my life without the woman I loved, because we trivialized the flu.”

Michael has shared Cecilia’s story in detail on Shot By Shot, and it is not unlike many of the other personal stories that are shared about the dangers of influenza.

Adults – even healthy adults – should know that the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older (to include pregnant women) get a flu vaccine to help prevent flu and the dangerous complications that can be caused by flu

While the timing of flu season is unpredictable, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and last as late as May.  It’s best to get vaccinated early in the season, since it takes about two weeks from the time of vaccination for the body to develop the antibodies that will help protect against influenza virus infection.

Michael explains, “My wish in telling Cecilia’s story is to let other adults know that no one is invincible because you are young, strong, or healthy. In San Diego County alone during the past year’s flu season, 67 adults died from flu, 25 of those were between 35-64. I wish I had known all this before losing my wife. For Cecilia’s sake, my message is: a flu shot can save your life.”

Visit Vaccinate Your Family to learn more about influenza and the vaccine that is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older, to include children, preteens and teens, adults and pregnant women.  

You can also find out what’s new with flu for 2016-2017 and get answers to frequently asked questions about the upcoming season here.

Find out from your healthcare provider or pharmacist when the flu vaccine will be available in your area, and check out HealthMap’s VaccineFinder for more information on where to locate influenza vaccines for you and your family members. 

For Cecilia’s sake, get your flu shot!

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47 responses to “Trivializing the Flu – It’s What Healthy Adults Tend To Do”

  1. Thanks for sharing Cecilia’s Story. Seeing someone young with no risk factors that suddenly dies of flu is so startling and makes you think that it is clearly worth it to “get around” to getting that flu shot every year.

  2. Carol Buske says:

    It is so sad. I’ve tried for the last few weeks to find an egg-free flu shot. w/o success. Last year Target’s pharmacy carried it, but now it’s managed by CVS. The year before I traveled 50 miles to get the shot. Even Northwestern’s allergy department doesn’t have it. I really don’t want the flu!

  3. Christine Vara says:

    @Carol Buske, I’m sorry to hear of the trouble you had in finding an egg-free flu shot. I’m not sure if anyone you encountered (either at the pharmacy or Northwestern’s allergy department) informed you of this, but recently the CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) have updated their guidelines on egg allergy and receipt of influenza (flu) vaccines. Most flu vaccines are manufactured using egg-based technology. Because of this, they contain a small amount of egg proteins, such as ovalbumin. However, studies that have examined the use of flu shots in egg-allergic and non-egg-allergic patients indicate that severe allergic reactions in people with egg allergies are unlikely. A recent CDC study found the rate of anaphylaxis after all vaccines is 1.31 per one million vaccine doses given. After reviewing the research, the ACIP recently modified their recommendations for flu vaccination of persons with egg allergy for the 2016-2017 season. For specific details, we recommend reviewing the information provided on the CDC website: Not knowing your exact medical condition, it’s hard to say, but perhaps after talking with your healthcare provider or allergist, you may find that you don’t necessarily need the egg-free flu shot. That sure would make it easier for you to prevent the flu. I hope you get the answers you are looking for. Best of luck to you.

  4. Carol Buske says:

    Thank you for taking the time to give such a detailed reply to my concern. I have read the change in standards, but I’m not sure if it’s due to a change in the amount of egg product in the shot or only their view of it. I’ll continue my search and, if unsuccessful, will probably take my chances and get the shot. BTW, I had paralytic polio and definitely believe in the value of vaccines.

  5. van pilsum says:

    A flu shot can also give you Alzheimer’s Disease.

  6. Lawrence says:

    No, it can’t.

  7. Christine Vara says:

    @vanpilsum It is interesting that you think a flu shot can give you Alzheimer’s disease. I would like to respond to your concern by including content from another well researched blog post: “Can flu vaccines cause Alzheimer’s disease?
    Fact: There is no link between Alzheimer’s disease and the flu vaccine; flu vaccines protect older adults. This myth is even addressed on the Alzheimer’s Association website, where they note the 2001 study showing a *reduced* risk of Alzheimer’s among those who had received flu vaccines, the polio vaccine and the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines. In fact, the risk for developing Alzheimer’s was half as much for those receiving these vaccines. This misconception originated with a quack named Hugh Fudenberg who has no evidence for the claim.

    Meanwhile, seniors are at high risk for flu complications and death and are recommended to get the flu vaccine each year, specifically the high-dose flu vaccine, since it offers greater protection for adults aged 65 and older, according to research. The live vaccine is not recommended for those over 65, but the intradermal flu vaccine is now available for this age group. (Side note: some worry about aluminum in vaccines causing Alzheimer’s — except that flu shots don’t contain aluminum and aluminum does not cause Alzheimer’s.)”

  8. Burt says:

    Yes of course, aluminum is in vaccines, and high levels of aluminum have been found in those with Alzheimer’s. Ingest vs inject. Glyphosate (found in vaccines) will break the blood-brain barrier, and thus aluminum right to the brain.

  9. Gray Falcon says:

    Burt: [citation needed]

  10. Chris says:

    Burt, American influenza vaccines do not have adjuvants. From “One licensed pandemic influenza vaccine contains an adjuvant called AS03. It is included in the US pandemic influenza vaccine stockpile, but it is not available to the general public.”

  11. Chris says:

    Also, Burt, facebook postings are not valid citations, especially those that do not exist. Please post the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers to support your statements.

  12. Gray Falcon says:

    Why we don’t trust Facebook posts as citations:

  13. dingo199 says:

    Imagine what the world of science would look like if FaceBook postings were the only source of scientific information.

  14. Chris says:

    Burt, that website consists of cherry picked studies that have very little to do reality. And influenza vaccines available to the general public do not contain aluminum adjuvants (something that website seems to worry about most).

  15. Burt says:

    There are many different flu vaccines available and the ingredients vary, but here is a list of common ingredients: Aluminum, polymyxin, beta-propiolactone, formaldehyde, thimerosal, polysorbate 80, and neomycin.

  16. Burt says:

    Your’e right about the typical flu vaccine not containing aluminum. I was surprised to find this out. But there are plenty of vaccines that do contain aluminum including the Hib (Haemophilus Influenzae Type B) vaccine.

  17. Chris says:

    Burt, please go to the top of the page and read the title out loud. Do you see anything about Hib? Also there are three influenza vaccine that do not have thimerosal, and several states who do not allow it in the vaccines given to children and pregnant women.

    Since you think listing off random chemical names (including one that is produced by your body), and influenza kills about a hundred American kids per year along with thousands of adults you now need to provide actual citations that show any of approved influenza vaccines used in the USA cause more harm than influenza. The citations need to be PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers, not random Facebook pages nor websites by non-medical professionals like the guy who sells vaping supplies.

  18. Burt says:

    Chris you know as well as I do that the flu vaccine does not work. Also, the flu vaccine is one of the highest reported and paid out for injuries like Guillain-Barré syndrome.
    Please provide the circumstances around any flu death in the US.

  19. Chris says:

    “Chris you know as well as I do that the flu vaccine does not work.”

    Really? Prove it with real citations. I have not had influenza since getting the vaccines. I no longer get sick with a high fever and horrible muscle aches for over a week.

    “Also, the flu vaccine is one of the highest reported and paid out for injuries like Guillain-Barré syndrome.”

    Prove it. Provide the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that any influenza vaccine approved for use in the USA is more dangerous than both types of influenza that are vaccinated for.

    Plus I have a wee math story problem for you:

    The following shows that in the three last full years (this year just started) of influenza reporting that on average over a hundred pediatric influenza deaths in the USA (which were confirmed by lab testing), plus there were lots of adults who died and people ended up in the hospital:

    Now, here is the NVICP statistics report:

    Please scroll down and check out the summary data going all the way back to 1988. It is the one titled Petitions Filed, Compensated and Dismissed, by Alleged Vaccine, Since the Beginning of VICP, 10/01/1988 through 10/03/2016.

    Now check out the “Influenza” row. Hmmm… it is 109 deaths during that twenty eight year period. So how many more American kids have died from influenza since they started counting in 2004? Is it more or less than your cut and paste of “116”? By the way both the “109” and “116” number include adults, the pediatric numbers are the ones that have been laboratory confirmed (it says so if you click on the link under the subtitle “Influenza-Associated Pediatric Mortality:” on the first link in this comment)

    Last year was a good year since only 85 kids died, but the year before there were 148 pediatric deaths. Since I don’t live on Htrae, I am pretty sure that the actual disease caused more deaths. And loss of works hours (which is not trivial if you are working at job without benefits like sick pay). And hospitalizations.

  20. Chris says:

    Burt: “Please provide the circumstances around any flu death in the US.”

    Go to the above article and read it. It is like you saw the title and decided to skip reading the article and just post your fact free idiocy. I am sure Michael really appreciated your dismissal of the pain he experienced from losing his wife Cecilia. Did you even bother to look at the photos?

    I am sure you are cool with the more than a hundred families a year in the USA in the last dozen years that have lost a child from influenza:

  21. Lawrence says:

    It appears that within the decade, we’ll have a Universal Flu vaccine available….but it still won’t make a dent in the idiotic comments made by anti-vaxers.

  22. Chris says:

    “…. the idiotic comments made by anti-vaxers.”

    Like posting on an article about the dreadful death of a healthy adult from influenza and asking for the “..circumstances around any flu death in the US.”

    Le sigh.

  23. Burt says:

    Universal flu vaccine = More universal health issues

  24. Lawrence says:

    Here’s the point that Burt is attempting to make – that most people who die of the Flu, actually die of other things (like pneumonia)….this is a typical anti-vax strawman talking point.

    The elderly, especially, are vulnerable to viral diseases & their associated opportunistic secondary infections. The real answer is, if those people hadn’t gotten the Flu in the first place, they wouldn’t have died of pneumonia.

  25. Lawrence says:

    So, someone like Burt has a problem with a single Universal Flu vaccine – only given once, over the current annual Flu vaccine?

    Why, of course he does….

  26. Burt says:

    The flu vaccine will only push “The elderly, especially, are vulnerable to viral diseases & their associated opportunistic secondary infections.” to early graves.

  27. Burt says:

    Wonder why the admin removed my last comment?

  28. Christine Vara says:

    Burt, We removed your comment because it included a personal attack. (In other words, please refrain from calling people idiots, or risk being banned from further discussion.)

  29. Lawrence says:

    Well, perhaps because your comments are nonsensical…but in reality, there is a spam filter that catches comments every once in a while….

    And yet you offer no proof for your words.

  30. Burt says:

    Understood Christine, so why is Lawrence allowed to call me an idiot then?
    He was talking about me when he said this… “idiotic comments made by anti-vaxers.”

    And that is why I came up with my own idiot comment.

  31. Burt says:

    Lawrence, it is a know fact that people with vulnerable immune systems should not get vaccinated and yet you push the flu vaccine on the elderly. You think this makes any sense?

  32. Christine Vara says:

    Burt, there is a difference between calling comments idiotic rather than people. You specifically called someone an idiot. I might also suggest that you support your claims with evidence. In other blog posts on this blog I provide plenty of evidence of studies that have shown that flu vaccine among the elderly actually reduces the incidence of hospitalization and death. So your claims are unsupported, unless you can provide some evidence. If not, then I suggest you refrain from repeating yourself.

  33. Lawrence says:

    I would like you to explain why allowing the elderly is better than vaccinating them.

  34. Lawrence says:

    “allowing the elderly to get sick” – sorry, too fast typing.

  35. Burt says:

    Who is allowing the elderly to get sick? The flu shot is not very effective, and there is no proof it helps the elderly.

  36. Chris says:

    Which is why we want the children and other adults to get vaccinated, to protect the elderly. Though they do get some protection.

  37. Burt says:

    Here’s why the elderly should not get the flu vaccine.

    “Imagine you are at war. Your immune system is the total sum of your available troops. When you get the flu shot, your troops are sent scrambling in multiple directions after three different viruses, which may or may not be actually causing disease this year in your area of the world. Subtract those troops from your total army. ~~They’re busy.

    Out of what’s left, some troops are sent off to fight the toxins – formaldehyde and mercury, because the flu shot triggers the toxin arm of your immune system, too. ~~Subtract those troops from your total army. They’re busy.

    Now… let’s say while your viral troops and your toxin troops are out chasing down false flags, something else comes along that is a REAL threat, and your immune system needs to respond. Something like a bacterial infection… tonsillitis, bronchitis, strep, bacterial meningitis… You really need your troops but they aren’t there because they’re too busy chasing after three “hypothetical” threats of flu virus and two very real threats of toxic assault.

    What happens? You get sick.

    The flu vaccine sends your available immune resources – your troops – off in all directions chasing after false threats, leaving the elderly more vulnerable to the real threats – like bacterial infections… and other viral infections.”

  38. Lawrence says:

    That’s the most absurd description of immune response I’ve ever read (and I’ve read some bad ones).

    Let’s see – your body makes formaldehyde, in quantities far greater than is contained in all the vaccines you might receive, as part of its normal metabolic process.

    The overall capacity of the immune system is huge – it can respond to literally thousands of individual challenges – and does so on a daily basis.

    If you truly believe that the immune system could be overwhelmed by a single vaccine – then explain why it doesn’t get overwhelmed by the hundreds and thousands of regular challenges it faces each and every single day?

    This is why no one can take anti-vaxers seriously….they should a profound lack of understanding of basic biology and immunology.

  39. Burt says:

    -Why then are people concerned with formaldehyde in their flooring?

    -If your immune system is so indestructible, then why do people get sick?

    -A vaccine by its very nature is designed to overwhelm the immune system, to elicit a response to create antibodies.

  40. Lawrence says:

    #1 – because when inhaled, formaldehyde can have a deleterious effect on the lungs.

    #2 – the immune system is not “indestructible” – it is just capable of responding to thousands of different antigen challenges at once.

    #3 – no, a vaccine is not designed to “overwhelm” the immune system. Quite the contrary – it is designed to elicit the minimal response necessary for the system to recognize the disease and create the appropriate antibody response, so that when exposed to the disease in the future, infection will not occur.

    You seem very confused as to the actual function of the immune system & human biology in general. I would suggest that you open up a text book and do some studying first before you make a bigger fool of yourself.

  41. Lawrence says:

    And also, a person gets “sick” when viruses and bacteria are able to successfully replicate within the human body – and in most cases the feeling “bad” part is the immune response.

    Again, your knowledge of basic biology and immunology is incredibly lacking.

  42. Gretel Hansen says:

    Chris: There is one new flu vaccine this year for people 65+. It has adjuvant in it. It is the one and only adjuvanted flu vaccine available in the US.

  43. Chris says:

    Thanks. It was noted in the CDC website I linked to. I really did not point it out since it is not given to most of the population, especially children and those under age 65. I quoted from the link I gave that it was not given to the general population.

    Of course an adjuvant would only make the immune response in the elderly better.

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