The year of 2018 will mark the 100th anniversary of the 1918 outbreak of Spanish flu, which infected a half a billion people and killed up to 5% of the world’s population. That is approximately 1 out of every 200-people died. Some 670,000 Americans died during that 15-month hell. The toll of history’s worst epidemic surpassed all the military deaths in World War 1 and World War II combined.
It’s heard we are “due” for another big one. Pandemic flu doesn’t care which political party you support and doesn’t discriminate between rich, poor, male, female, age or race. Geographical boundaries are meaningless, and it can circle the globe within hours.
Today, top public health experts constantly rank influenza as the most dangerous emerging health threat we face.
Make no mistake, outbreaks are sudden, unexpected and unpredictable. The influenza virus mutates rapidly, changing enough that the human immune system has difficulty recognizing and attacking it from one season to the next. It can cause serious complications and death. Even healthy people die from flu. It can affect any child or adult and literally make them deathly ill within 48 hours to the point they are in ICU or dead.
In recent news you may have heard about 20-year-old Alani “Joie” Murrieta. Her two boys were the first to get sick. They spent Thanksgiving with sore throats, chills and fevers. By the end of the long weekend, the adults were feeling flu symptoms, too. Alani left work early on November 26th because she felt ill. She was prescribed Tamiflu. The following day, she was coughing uncontrollably, first mucous, then blood. Her flu turned into pneumonia, she had difficulty breathing and went unconscious. By Tuesday—two days after Alani started feeling ill—she was dead.
According to the CDC, more than 6,000 people already have tested positive for flu this 2017-2018 season. That is more than double the number of people infected at this time last year. There is an easy and inexpensive way to prevent influenza: annual vaccinations. The flu shot can cut the chance of infection in half. For vaccinated people who end up getting the flu, it makes symptoms much milder.
Alani “Joie” Murrieta was not vaccinated against flu this year.
On an average, 5% to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from complications. About 100 children die from flu and a total of 36,000 in the U.S each flu season.
The fact that flu vaccines aren’t 100% effective discourages some people from bothering to get them. But it does reduce the amount of virus that a person will potentially spread to others. This helps to avoid a larger, more serious health emergency. Last year alone, the CDC estimated that the vaccine prevented 5.1 million flu illnesses.
But preventing a flu outbreak isn’t just the responsibility of scientists and immunologists. The other half of the equation is the public’s civic duty to help protect one another by getting the flu vaccination even if you don’t think you need it. Getting the flu shot isn’t just about protecting your health. Vaccinations are also about protecting others.
Flu is prevalent in December through March.
Its not to late to vaccinate – against flu! Protect everyone around you!
Richard Webby, Time Health December 12, 2017
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Health September 14, 2017