The term hysteria in the title is really for lack of a better term. I suppose that the “flu epidemic” makes for sort of perverse sensationalism to sell news. But like much in the press masks some real inefficiencies in a way that can be misleading in a way that results in more harm than good.
Why? Well, I am supposing that the people who are actually tested for presence a flu virus are among those who are sick enough to require medical attention. Looking at the CDC’s flu site, the statistics on positive tests of the samples collected is between 15 and 20%.
I am not a doctor, an epidemiologist, or anything close to being in the medical profession. But a bit of common sense analysis would point in the direction that when 80% of the people who are sick enough to need medical care have something else, it seems to me that the something else is more of a problem. The flu is probably getting a bad rap.
What the composition of the 80% of test results to be other than the flu is the CDC doesn’t say. But this article on CNN provides one clue: Adenovirus. And look at what else it says about this bug that can be nasty:
A runny nose, cough, sore throat, breathing problems, fever, headache, diarrhea: If you came down with these symptoms in the middle of winter, you’d probably assume it’s the flu and take to your bed immediately. Think again.
Adenoviruses, unlike the flu, are not seasonal and can cause illness throughout the year. And while an adenovirus vaccine exists, it’s available only to military recruits.
Actually, reading this article gave me the idea for this post because like the flu, most people who get an adenovirus become miserable for a period of time, they get better without intervention. But the risk of complications from this virus are comparable to the flu, the very young, the very old, and people with weakened immune systems, and the complications can result in death. And I wonder, if adenovirus is nearly the same with the exception of being more common than the flu, why the vaccine is only available to the military.
Thinking about this, and how hard I’ve been trying to not get sick this winter: I have an economy-sized tub of Lysol wipes at my desk at work and I carry a wipe around wherever I go, wiping down door handles and the bathroom stalls, it annoys me that the thing that is causing the most misery is cared about only enough to vaccinate the military.
The last time I went to Target, I happened to wander past the pharmacy. It is stuffed full of over the counter painkillers, stuff for allergies, athlete’s foot, and various sorts of bandages, stuff that helps relieve minor annoyances, but nothing that really treats anything meaningful.
While other articles about the flu state that taking Tamiflu, an anti-viral drug, is very safe and has virtually no side effects, and works well to shorten the illness when taken early, and one cannot get that at Target or anywhere else without, of course, being sick enough to need to see a doctor – and then it’s too late. And it’s a real sad thing to read about these kids dying of the flu with the grieving parents discussing how helpless they felt.
It’s probably one of those things that’s better off not thought about, but I can’t help it.
PS: When thought about in the context of healthcare as en entitlement debate, the situation seems absurdly perverse, and stuffed with politics above real people.