January 17, 2018
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A wall of fire in Sonoma and Napa Counties

By: George Malkemus
October 27, 2017

The shock and reality is still upon us from the fires and will continue for many years. My mother-in-law Mary lost her house on Fountain Grove Ridge. She is lucky to be alive, being rescued and escaping with only her purse and her cat Meeko. She is 88-years-old and lived alone in a large single story house. When she was 64, she had a massive stroke, which she was lucky to survive, but left her without being able to speak, with swallowing problems and use of only her left hand. Her husband Don came down with Parkinson’s Syndrome, which advanced rapidly and he passed away in January of 2005.  

Thanks to Kyle Audiss of Rohnert Park, who was going door to door to help people evacuate in Fountain Grove, Mary was saved. At 2:30 p.m., a neighbor pointed Kyle to Mary’s house and told him there is an older woman who lives alone there and she might need help. He rescued her and drove her and Meeko seven miles away, taking over an hour to drive through the chaos on Brush Creek Road to my sister-in-law Adriene’s house in Bennett Valley at 4 a.m. They were evacuated an hour and half later from Bennett Valley and came to my house in Cotati. Thanks again Kyle - a True Hero.

Mary is now living with my wife Mary Alice and me and she is doing well considering her loss. It is still early but she seems to be adapting well. I installed stair rails on both sides to allow Mary to navigate our house. Change is constant and loss can be devastating, but we must carry on and persevere through difficult times. Most of us are great with change, as long as it was our idea.  But change imposed on us from the outside is difficult to cope with. If we can accept that nothing is permanent and change is inevitable and if we can adapt, then we can stay positive and joyful. I saw “Spamalot” at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center on Saturday - a wonderful, laughable comic relief. I highly recommend the show. The theme song is “Stay on the Sunny-Side of Life.”

Flu Vaccine

So it is time to get back to normal healthy living. I was lucky to get my yearly flu vaccine the Thursday before the fire. The flu season is from November to April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March. Getting the shot before the flu season is in full force gives the body a chance to build up immunity to the flu virus. It takes about two weeks for protection to develop and about six weeks after getting the flu shot to be fully protected.

If you haven’t had the flu lately, you may have forgotten just how miserable the flu can make you feel. Symptoms come on suddenly and may last several days to several weeks. Symptoms include: fever with chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, coughing, headache, vomiting and runny or stuffy nose. But there is more to fear than fever, fatigue and nagging aches and pains. From 5 percent to 20 percent of the US population gets the flu every year, with 200,000 hospitalized and 36,000 deaths.

The highest rate of flu is found around school age children, who then spread the disease to the more vulnerable age groups, the elderly and the young. Death rates from flu complications are highest among those 65 and older. Hospitalization is equally high among elderly and children under the age of two. Children ages two to five have the highest rates for visiting an emergency room or their doctor because of the flu.

Health officials recommend that all adults and children over six months of age, with few exceptions, get a flu vaccine. The emphasis is on stopping the spread of flu among kids, which will then keep them from spreading the disease to the wider population. The idea is that vaccinating most kids will not only spare them from the aches and pains of the flu and missed days of school, but will hinder the spread of illness throughout the rest of society.  

A high-dose flu shot is recommended for people 65 and older to provide additional protection using four inactivated flu stains compared to three used in the regular dose. Also note that the cost of the high-dose flu shot is totally covered if you have Medicare.  

The flu shot is needed every year. Flu protection wears off yearly since the flu virus is constantly changing. That’s why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus. Scientists try to predict each year what the prominent viruses will be that season and develop the appropriate vaccine. 

The flu vaccine reduces the average person’s chances of catching the flu by up to 80 percent during the season. Because the vaccine only prevents infection with some of the common yearly viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms, it isn’t a 100 percent guarantee against getting sick.  However, usually the flu symptoms will be fewer, short lasting and milder after a flu shot. 

Most people do not experience any side effects from the flu shot. Some of those vaccinated may have soreness or swelling at the site of the injection or mild side effects, such as headache or low-grade fever. Although these side effects may last for a day, the flu can make you seriously sick for two to three weeks or even longer. I had no side effects from the injection this year or any years previous.

A common myth about the flu shot is that it can actually cause the flu. But the flu vaccine used in the United States is made from killed influenza viruses, which means that it’s impossible to catch the flu by receiving a flu shot.

Other vaccinations

* Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough)

* Measles, mumps, rubella

* Chickenpox

* Pneumococcal

* Hepatitis A

* Hepatitis B

* Meningococcal

The shingle’s vaccination is recommended for individuals over 60 years old. 

Bottom line: One of the best ways to protect your health is with a yearly flu vaccine and keeping up with ten-year booster vaccinations. I have been getting the flu shot every year for over 25 years and I have rarely been sick, even though I am in close quarters with people every day in the dental office.

Enjoy Life and Keep Smiling!

George Malkemus has a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@  Visit Dr. Malkemus’ Web site at