Fear of Flu

I hate needles.  You know when you go to the doctor’s office and from down the hall you hear a little kid screaming, crying and throwing a tantrum?  I was that kid growing up.  In my Sophomore Year of High School I had to get reconstructive ACL surgery and honestly, the worst part about it wasn’t the thought of the doctor cutting into my knee, it was the thought of a nurse sticking me with an I.V. drip.  Currently, I think the idea of getting a meaningful tattoo would be pretty awesome, but my mom always reminds me that I’ll never get one because — do you know why? I hate needles.

Knowing this background information, you can understand why I have never been a fan of receiving flu shots.  You know, the shot that doctors, news anchors, billboards along the 405 and basically everyone at your church reminds you to get every year before the holidays?  Well, as you can imagine, I’m that one guy who always nods in agreement but listens to that little devil on my shoulder that tells me not to.  In fact, while I was studying Public Health at UC Irvine, I had taken a course on Immunology where we discussed the practice of ‘Herd Immunity’.  Basically Herd Immunity states that a community can remain unaffected by a viral outbreak as long as a majority of the members receives the proper vaccines.  When those words left my professor’s mouth you can imagine how excited I was.  No longer would I have to suffer the agonizing pain caused by the unnecessarily long and sharp needles that promised my safety and protection as long as I stayed within the right Herd..

But what if one day I go out to dinner with friends and someone unknowingly infects me with the flu?  What if I come home fatigued, with a fever and cough that I cannot shake?  What if I show up to work, in fear of falling behind, and get my coworkers sick?  What if my coworkers transmit the virus to a loved one?  What if I transmit the virus to a loved one?  What if the virus continues to worsen and I end up having to seek medical attention?  What if it is too late?

If you have ever attended one of our Genki Living Programs, you know that at KEIRO we actively promote the idea of ‘self management’.  Being a self manager means that you, and only you, are responsible for your health and wellbeing and honestly, I can admit that I have not been the best self manager.  My fear of needles (a Google search tells me this is called Trypanophobia) has placed me in the passenger seat of my health and wellness, allowing my community to save me from viral outbreaks.  Why should I place my health and wellness in the fate of so many people I do not know or even trust?

This past year it has seemed that California, and the rest of our country, has been held captive to yet another influenza viral strand.  In fact, Los Angeles County has seen a significant increase in the amount of people who have tested positive for this influenza strand, jumping from 124 cases in December 2015 to 309 cases in December 2016.  As 2016 wrapped up, California had 3 confirmed deaths from the influenza and dozens of people seeking hospital admission to seek medical attention.


KEIRO’s good friend and renowned geriatric physician, Dr. Thomas Yoshikawa, is strongly encouraging members of Our Community to take a proactive stance and be successful self managers this flu season.  In fact, the County of Los Angeles Public Health Department recommends that people over the age of 50, as well as those with weakened immune systems (such as those living with diabetes) receive annual flu shots.  Their website lists several locations where they are offering flu shots for free (under certain restrictions).  Additionally, several health insurance policies allow you to receive an annual flu shot free of charge.  The barriers and excuses that you once had as to why you could not receive your annual flu shot, are quickly dwindling.

Like most good members of Our Community, I take off my shoes when entering my friends’ places, or if my friend gives me a Tupperware I always return it with something inside.  We do our best to be unnecessarily polite because it is engrained into our culture.  So what excuse do we have now to not do the polite thing, and get our influenza vaccine?  When you put it like that, I guess you can say I’ll no longer be that crying kid in the doctor’s office.  I am on my way to get my flu shot.

Visit KEIRO’s website for Facts Sheets on topics including health and wellness, caregiving, food and nutrition, along with other Resources from KEIRO to help you live a healthy and fulfilling life.

KEIRO®is expanding our reach from a focus on long term health care facilities to broadly engaging and supporting thousands of Japanese American and Japanese older adults throughout Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura counties. KEIRO provides services to older adults and caregivers, along with programs for residents of KEIRO’s former facilities. Find out more at: www.keiro.org


About the Author: 


Kevin Onishi is the Community Engagement Specialist at Keiro.  He attended the University of California at Irvine where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Health Policy.  In his spare time, Kevin stays genki by being an accomplished amateur food critic, a Golden State Warrior fan, and his parents’ favorite child.  Additionally, Kevin is an avid golfer and coaches basketball.



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