The Influenza Virus Is The Eighth Leading Cause of Death in America
Of course in American it is summer time. In fact most of the citizens of the world live in the northern hemisphere which is experiencing summer time and we all know the influenza virus is more easily transmitted in colder air. This implies that come fall and eventually winter the H1N1 influenza virus will be more likely to spread to greater population bases and thus should pose a greater threat to our health than it has thus far.
The Great Influenza Virus
Obviously the point of concern is that the H1N1 influenza virus killed huge swaths of people in the teens and twenties of the twentieth century and we fear that this “super-bug” might be capable of the same thing again but what is sometimes lost in the discussion is the fact that during the great pandemic antibiotics didn’t exist, and thus, death by influenza and pneumonia were among the largest threats to human life.
In fact in the early 20th century lung infections such as pneumonia and influenza were the number on cause of death in America. This category however has fallen with advances in medicine and now sits comfortably at eighth on the top ten causes of death in America list today. In 2006 (the last year of official CDC statistics) influenza / pneumonia killed approximately 56,000 people.
A Coming Influenza Virus Outbreak?
What then does the influenza virus have in store for us if the winter outbreak is as predicted by the government? The White House recently published a report estimating 30,000-90,000 deaths this flue season due to the H1N1 influenza virus. The CDC has turned around promptly and issued a statement as reported by the New York Times that it feels this number is quite high and unlikely, although it is plausible.
My analysis however assumes that this influenza virus will surely keep the influenza / pneumonia rates at least in-line with recent 2006 data and will likely increase upon it due to the H1N1 influenza virus’ stronger traits… and frankly stigma. I would imagine the thought of H1N1 diagnosis is more unsettling than typical influenza diagnosis, as a result I would imagine more people to feel worse due to the psychological assumptions they might have. The mind, after all, is a powerful weapon to fight or succumb to illness.
So let’s just take the low end of the estimates from the White House and assume 30,000 extra deaths will occur this flu season due to the Swine Flu, that would increase the total of deaths from 56,000 people annually to 86,000 people annually. This jump would actually be great enough to catapult influenza / pneumonia related deaths into the sixth spot up from number 8 as it currently stands. The influenza virus would actually affect more people than Alzheimer’s or Diabetes according the CDC.
Influenza Virus Vaccinnation
My wife, through just a medical student, works in a hospital setting every day and will likely be coming into contact with sick people with the flu quite often. She will be getting the H1N1 influenza shot this year and so too am I. Though I expect modern medicine to be able to treat most people who contract this virus and minimize the inevitable mortality rates that will occur, I also believe that the influenza virus will continue to target the very young and very old and very sick but I feel that if less of us can contract the influenza virus then there will be less of us passing it on to other people who have higher risk profiles.
I hope you will consider getting the coming influenza vaccine, not for fear but for prevention's sake. That’s what this blog is about. We don’t fear end of life or disease we simply feel it is important to do the right things to minimize our risks and prevent what we can and as a result we learn how to live longer.