[lit-ideas] Re: flu vaccine

  • From: Robert.Paul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Robert Paul)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: 27 Oct 2004 16:05:24 PDT

Andy wrote:

The 1918 pandemic started (those who have read this week's Newsweek will know
this) in Kansas City, in the U.S.A. in the same way SARS began in Asia:
proximity of people and animals.  No question that that strain was uncommonly
virulent, but the war fanned the fire into a conflagration.  Or so says
Newsweek.  IMO Paul is right, there's a lot of scare stuff in here too.  IMO
too, people love a catastrophe, until they get bored with it.  This shortage
does say something about our ability to respond to a biological attack though.
It may or may not say much about the latter, but i think that PS may be
exaggerating the exaggeration he sees surrounding this year's flu vaccine
shortage in the US.

In years when the flu virus strain isn't especially nasty, 5% to 20% of the
population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu
complications; and approximately 36,000 people die from flu. [CDC] So, wanting
to get a flu shot isn't all that self-indulgent, especially for people like Bill
Balll and me, who are over 35. Most people who 'die from the flu' actually die
from coomplications of it, and the main 'complication' from which they die is
pneumonia, either viral or bacterial. 

Why not just gamble that you won't be one of the 5-20%? After all, these aren't
bad odds. One reason is that a mild case of flu in a person who has a robust
immune system is still a case of flu, and the virus can be passed on to someone
really at risk, and that person will usually be likely to contract 'flu-caused'
pneumonia than most. A serious case of pneumonia is no fun, unless you like
prolonged sensations of choking to death. 

To imply that complaints about a shortage of flu vaccine are little more than
yuppie whinings is I think based on several misconceptions.

Robert Paul
The Reed Institute

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