Thanks to your interest many thousands of people have read this posting.
This surely reflects the dramatic presentation of this winter’s influenza epidemic.
Words like deadly are not very calming, and surely and most tragically some people have died from infection with the influenza virus.
But as the original post hopefully made clear, the actual number of children dying from this year’s influenza virus epidemic so far is 37, a fraction of the number who have died in past year’s influenza epidemics.
In this update we wanted to very briefly repeat the main points to be made about the influenza virus epidemic.
For your reference, we are including this link to the official CDC website tracking all numbers relevant to the 2017-8 influenza virus epidemic:
- There is a difference between “influenza virus” and having “a cold” or “the flu.” Read the original post for details, but briefly, the influenza virus is a very specific species of virus. It causes about 1/3 of all wintertime colds and flus. That of course means 2/3 of wintertime colds and flus are caused by other viruses. The news is making a very big deal about adenovirus causing colds and flus, a virus the influenza vaccine does not protect against, but this is true every year. Again, about 1/3 of winter colds and flus are from the influenza virus, which the vaccine really helps protect against.
- Infections from the influenza virus can be mild or severe. Like any virus, the actual infection seen in a large number of people almost always results in a wide range of severity.
- Even this year, the vast, vast majority of children who get a cold or flu, even from the influenza virus, do very well. Typically children who get a cold or flu virus, even from influenza, have a mild course, may feel miserable for a few days, but recover fully. We all know that, not a single person alive has never had a cold. Every living person has had many colds, and nearly everyone recovers very fully and nicely from them. That is what we see, that is what we expect.
- The news reports of children dying from the influenza virus have scared the nation, for no good reason. Again, each tragedy is an infinite loss. The question though, is if your child gets a cold, has no trouble breathing, is in no pain, has the typical symptoms of fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and or achiness, are they in danger? The facts suggest this is a very safe illness to have. Again, the original post goes into more detail, but consider this current fact. The nation has about 100 million children in it. Nearly all of them have been exposed to this current influenza epidemic. The latest CDC reports state that 37 children have died of influenza virus infections. That means a child in the US infected with the influenza virus has a less than 1 in 1 million chance of that being fatal. Infections that lead to death in less than 1 in 1 million infections are very safe infections.
- Of course, even if an infection like one with influenza virus is typically not dangerous, if worrisome symptoms appear, seek medical attention. Serious symptoms that should cause worry include the following, incomplete list: trouble breathing, stiff neck, severe pain, dehydration.
- Get a flu shot. Lots has been said back and forth on this subject. Our position is very clear. The flu shot protects your child from more severe disease, and in about 30% of the time, from even getting sick from the influenza virus.
- April and May are coming. The influenza virus leaves our nation by the end of April, in some years in late March. Really 2-3 months are left and this epidemic will be gone, until it all starts again, much like this year, this coming December.
We hope you and your family not only weather the arrival of the influenza virus in our community well, but also can avoid the panic and dread the various news reports have whipped up.
To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin