Sunday, February 17, 2008

Flu Epidemic

(This is a continuation of part one from yesterday)
Last night got a little better for me. The coughing was still there, but not as bad. In fact, the coughing is still here right now as I write this. The muscle aches have pretty much resolved. And, to be honest, this was the main symptom that was bothering me. The headache and sore throat are continuing to improve. It's a good thing, because I'm on call tomorrow and the weekend coming up.

As I was doing more research this weekend, I found this article from the Associated Press from February 15th saying that this year's flu vaccine is effective for only 40% of this year's flu viruses.
Infections from an unexpected strain have been booming, and now are the main agent behind most of the nation's lab-confirmed flu cases, said Dr. Joe Bresee, the CDC's chief of influenza epidemiology. It's too soon to know whether this will prove to be a bad flu season overall, but it's fair to say a lot of people are suffering at the moment. "Every area of the country is experiencing lots of flu right now," Bresee said.
If you haven't seen it already, check out the map on my previous post from the CDC which states that most of the country is under the "Widespread Flu" designation. Now, I know what everybody is going to say, "Well, Dr. A, why even get a flu shot if it's going to be 40% effective?"

The way flu vaccines work is that they have to try to predict ONE YEAR in advance what the flu viruses are going to be. For the most part, they have been right. But, as I have been seeing in interviews over the weekend, researchers have been playing the "cover your butt" game saying things like - "We predicted that sometime in the future we would be wrong and there would be a flu epidemic."

In my book, 40% is better than 0%. Here are the facts from the CDC. Every year in these United States, 36,000 people die each year from the flu and more than 200,000 are hospitalized from flu complications. These complications may vary from dehydration to respiratory failure and needing to be on a respirator or breathing machine. Now, wanna flu shot? Well, it takes weeks to get working in your system. That's why the big push is in the fall to get your flu shot.

Another interesting observation is that the popular media has not really picked up this story yet. Usually, they are all over stories like this to cause panic in the public. They usually love driving patients to hospitals and doctors offices and having patients demand flu shots and prescriptions for meds like Tamiflu.

My prediction will be that when this flu story starts to intersect with the story of the presidential primary process - that's when you'll see headlines like "Flu Epidemic" all over the place. Three states vote on Tuesday and four states vote on March 4th (including my state).

You'll see headlines like, "Disenfranchised voters have the flu - especially elderly; unable to appear at voting station due to illness." Then, you'll see candidates trying to take political advantage of the flu. I hope I'm wrong. But, if not, you heard it here first. I'm Dr. A, and I approved this message....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was going to say...I think I knew this...the prediction issue but maybe in Canada we...know this?

*PA scratches head*

However, I do know that it's a crap shoot and you do not know if it's going to be necessarily effective. Nonetheless, a good idea for some?

I used to get it as I volunteered in a Hospice. That's kind of a no brainer.

I was thinking of it this year as my body's been through hell and I weigh 90lbs. but ironically I think I was sick when they were giving them out at work!

Oh well, it's now mid-February so who cares? I survived.