One thing I expect we all can say about the past year is that, from hurricanes to droughts to wildfires, 2017 is a year defined by disaster.
In 2017, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, at least 16 weather disasters occurred across the United States, accounting for financial losses exceeding $1 billion for each. These natural catastrophes make 2017 the most expensive year on record for disasters in the United States, according to a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report.
Hurricane Harvey — a weather disaster my family experienced up close and personal — generated $125 billion in damage and is the year's most expensive disaster. More than 75 people died as a result of its massive flooding. We are still in the process of recovery. Much of the area underwater in late August is now being subjected to severe drought conditions. According to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly three-quarters of the state is experiencing drought or "abnormally dry" conditions. Houston had its 4th-driest November on record, according to the Southeast Regional Climate Center.
In Southern California, no sooner had the state snuffed out the massive Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in California's recorded history, Southern California was pounded with heavy rainfall. It caused rivers of mud and boulders to plow through neighborhoods in and near Montecito, a seaside community east of Santa Barbara. More than 20 people have died because of these slides.
California's troubles do not end there.
The state is being hit hard by the influenza outbreak that currently grips the country. Visits to L.A. County emergency rooms for influenza symptoms are more than twice as high as they were at the same time last year. California is one of more than 20 states where flu activity has been classified as "high." At last count, according to the California Department of Public Health, 42 flu-related deaths had been reported among patients younger than 65. Its impact on seniors has not been recorded, though it is widely known that influenza and its complications disproportionately affect people 65 and older.
According to the Los Angeles Times, hospitals across the state are flying in nurses from out of state, canceling surgeries and erecting tents in their parking lots to triage flu patients.
Most people in California and nationwide are catching a strain of influenza A known as H3N2. H3N2 was to blame for Australia's most recent brutal flu season. Flu cases in Australia during the 2017 southern hemisphere winter resulted in record-high numbers of lab-confirmed hospitalizations and deaths.
Widespread, high-level flu activity is going on in other states across the country as well, from Illinois to Texas. Many public health officials believe this constitutes the first year in which the entire continental United States is experiencing such a level of flu activity at the same time.
With many hospitals in Alabama operating over capacity, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has declared a state public health emergency due to this flu outbreak. Such outbreaks are not just happening in our country. According to the World Health Organization, flu activity has increased above baseline levels in most countries in northern and southwestern Europe.
According to experts, the data for the week ending January 6 suggest the season may be peaking right now. There is no certainty that this is the case.
Typically, flu season runs from October through May. Similar to these natural disasters, one thing you can say about this flu season is that it began earlier than normal. Though the H3N2 strain was anticipated, the intensity of this onslaught was not. Summarily, I have read that best-guess estimate as to where the Montecito mudslides were going to occur were correct. The unknowable was the magnitude in which it would hit and the time in which the event would occur.
The bigger the threats get, be it health or natural disaster, the more our government's capacity to deal with them comes into question. What seems clear is that we need to better prepare for extremes. What many are calling the new normal.
The best course of action for this raging flu season is to do all in your power to reduce your risk of contracting it until it is truly over.
It is not too late to get a flu shot, and vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older. It will not eliminate your risk, but it might reduce the severity and length of the illness should you get sick. It takes about two weeks for a flu shot to take effect.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also advises that people get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage their stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious foods. In short, do all that you can to stay healthy. It is also recommended that people stay home from work and school and avoid running errands when sick. Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is sick.
As Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently reminded CNN: "One of the really important things to remember is there are, probably for everybody, weeks to go in this flu season."
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.