The Year Just Flu By

By Scott LaFee

August 12, 2020 4 min read

Parents of kids under age 5 often schedule their child's annual checkup for around their birthday. That practice may influence who gets the annual flu shot. Researchers found that kids whose birthdays fall between September and December — when flu shots first become available — had higher rates of flu vaccination than those whose birthdays occur earlier in the year. They also found that children born in the last quarter of the year tend to be diagnosed with the flu less often.

A Sliver of Silver

Here's a possible tiny silver lining during the pandemic. There have been fewer cases of a mysterious polio-like illness called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, which typically strikes children in the summer and fall months.

The disease is caused by a viral infection. Doctors believe distancing measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 may be preventing the spread of AFM as well.

Body of Knowledge

Researchers once thought the human brain was sterile, that is, normally free of bacteria and other microbes. They've since found evidence of microbes living harmlessly in some people's brains (discovered post-mortem). The finding suggests brains might have microbiomes, too, just like the gut.

Get Me That, Stat!

Teen births fell 7% between 2017-2018, with 38 of 50 states showing declines; eight states with non-significant declines; and rising rates only in North Dakota, Rhode Island and South Carolina. New Jersey showed no change.

Stories for the Waiting Room

Health insurance data shows that the most common comorbidity (underlying condition) for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is chronic kidney disease and kidney failure. The median charge for hospitalization ranged from approximately $35,000 for patients ages 23-30 but more than $45,000 for patients ages 51-60.

Doc Talk

Interstitium: Discovered in 2018, the interstitium is a network of fluid-filled spaces in connective tissues throughout the body.

Phobia of the Week

Acarophobia: fear of itching or of the insects that cause itching.

Best Medicine

Man: "After 12 years of analysis, I finally was able to get in touch with my emotions and break down and cry."

Man's friend: "What happened?"

Man: "One day, my analyst looked at me and said, 'No hablo ingles.'"


"Whenever I think about the past, it brings back such memories." — comedian Steven Wright

Medical History

This week in 1865, Dr. Joseph Lister became the first surgeon to perform an antiseptic operation by using carbolic acid as a disinfectant. He had studied Louis Pasteur's germ theory of disease — that infections are caused by bacteria. Lister knew carbolic acid had been effective in municipal use for treating sewage and decided to try using it to kill germs that would otherwise infect wounds. He poured it on bandages, ligatures, instruments, the wound and hands. His first patient to benefit was James Greenlees, age 12, whose broken leg was treated after being run over by a cart. The dressing was soaked with carbolic acid and linseed oil. The wound healed without infection.

Med School

Q: What is the maximum speed, in millimeters per second, of red blood cells?

A: 20 to 30 millimeters per second in larger blood vessels. (Thirty millimeters is a little over 1 inch.)

Last Words

"I done told you my last request ... a bulletproof vest." — final words of James W. Rodgers, convicted of murder, as he stood before a Utah firing squad in 1960.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Mojpe at Pixabay

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