Saturday January 12, 2013

The flu bug currently afflicting the Berkshires should be remembered later this year when flu vaccines become available for the flu season of 2014. It's best to get the vaccination before the season arrives.

The virus arrived earlier and with greater ferocity this year than in the past, and while confirmed cases of influenza in the Berkshires are 17 times higher than January of 2012 the county has so far been spared the bug's onslaught in Boston, where a public health emergency has been declared and there is a run on flu shots. It is better to get a flu shot sooner rather than later, but state health officials report that there is ample vaccine available.

The unusual persistence of nasty viruses is a likely byproduct of the warmer winter temperatures in the Berkshires of the past few years that now appear to have become the norm.

The long deep freezes of past winters would kill bacteria and viruses and also make the county inhospitable to tics and other insects that can now survive and thrive here. Global warming may lower heating costs but there is a price to pay for higher temperatures.

Those suffering from the flu are best advised to stay out of work or school, and they should at least refrain from coughing and sneezing in the direction of friends, family members, fellow students and co-workers. Keeping hands clean with regular washings is always advisable. And in anticipation of the next flu season, don't wait to get a flu shot.