It’s flu season, and the new book ‘Influenza’ says you should get your flu shot!


Last month, one of my patients told me that her belly button had gone numb after she got the flu shot. It was her first time receiving the vaccine and, she said, most certainly her last.

As we discussed the unlikely possibility that the jab was to blame, I mentioned that I had just read a new book, “Influenza: The Hundred Year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History” by Jeremy Brown (Touchstone, 272 pp., ★★★ out of four).

It’s by a doctor who has vast experience treating the virus, and it sheds some new light on one of our most confounding and deadly pathogens. (The 1918 influenza pandemic, known as Spanish flu, resulted in the deaths of more than 50 million people.)

Here are five key takeaways from a book that marks its centennial:

1. Doctors think about influenza very differently.

The author, a longtime emergency room physician, reveals that he almost never orders a rapid flu test because “its result will be of no consequence to the way I will treat the patient.”

I scratched my head when I read that; I’m an internist and I order the test almost every day during the winter because its result can alter the way I treat patients. We both have our reasons, and it’s useful to know there’s not a unified approach to testing.

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