You’ve probably heard at least one story about influenza in recent news reports. In fact, federal health officials announced in late January that influenza cases were higher than they had been in the last decade. As of Feb. 9, 63 children had died from influenza or its complications, and influenza activity was widespread in almost every state.
Influenza is a cunning virus. As it replicates, it constantly mutates, or changes, so that immunologic memory from previous influenza infections becomes less efficient at staving off another infection. While the virus can be particularly dangerous for children less than 5 years of age, adults over 65, pregnant women, or those who are immune-compromised, the reality is that influenza does not discriminate. Unfortunately, each year, deaths of previously healthy children and adults are reported. About 200,000 Americans are hospitalized, and about 36,000 people die yearly.
Despite the annual news reports and vaccination reminders by healthcare providers, some people tend to push back against flu vaccination — it doesn’t work (it does), it gives you the flu (it does not), it’s not a good match this year (it still saves lives). These misconceptions, coupled with the ubiquity of hearing about the flu each and every year, can sometimes lead to passivity, with vaccination taking a low priority on the “to-do” list.
Sadly, Angelina Sigala knows all too well how tangible the effects of influenza can be. Sigala lost her sister, Marcelina — whom she called “the glue that held our family together” — to complications from influenza in February 2015. It’s a nightmare Sigala says she and her family, including Marcelina’s two children, feel every day.
Recently, the Vaccine Education Center spoke with Sigala about her sister’s illness and its effects on their family. For Sigala and her family, it wasn’t “just the flu.”
“I lost a sister,” Sigala said. “My mother lost a daughter. Her kids lost a mother. The flu affects millions of people every year. Families go through this every year. The stories need to be told.”
Read more of Angelina’s story.