We are in middle of a pretty bad influenza season. No doubt about that. From the CDC, 29 States are reporting high influenza like illness (ILI) activity and 41 states are reporting widespread geographic activity of ILI. There is an increase in the rate of hospitalization and even deaths, with 18 pediatric deaths having already occurred this season (compared to 34 in all of the 2011-2012 season). Working in healthcare, evaluating patients as the present in the emergency room or the clinic, it is safe to say that the Flu is no laughing matter. Now there are a lot of articles out in the InterWeb about all of this, and I am seeing a recurrent theme stated at the end all the articles: Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from Influenza.
Now, I take a little issue with this, and here is why:
This graph shows the level of ILI outpatient visits so far in 2012-2013 as compared to previous flu seasons:
Pretty bad, right? It looks like we are on track for either a early moderate season, or a pretty terrible flu season. So no wonder there are so many more cases as compared to last year. So based upon the articles out on the InterWeb, you must think that if so many people are getting sick this early, people must not have gotten vaccinated like they did last year! Well, let’s take a look:
For all persons there were actually 0.2% more adults vaccinated! And the Children? 3.2% higher rate of vaccination as of November! And keep in mind, the peak in the season so far came in December, after these numbers were compiled, and theoretically late enough for the vaccine to take effect, if it were going to take effect, that is…. I’m no statistician, but my thought is that if vaccine rates are the same as last year, yet we are having a worse flu season, then a couple of possibilities exist:
1) The Flu vaccine is the wrong one for this season
2) The Vaccine is the right one for the season but just flat out doesn’t work
3) A whole lot more people would have gotten sick if they didn’t get vaccinated
Personally, I lean towards 1 or 2. The point of this little exercise is simply to make it known that we shouldn’t be relying solely on the vaccine to get us through this flu season. In fact, I’m not sure I would necessarily recommend it as first line protection. (Note: I only got the vaccine (the first in my life) because I was ordered to by my Command)
So what can be done, you ask?
1) WASH YOUR DIRTY HANDS! Wash them all the time, use the purell, just keep them clean.
2) Get plenty of sleep and rest
3) Eat healthy! yes, actually eat what is good for you and for your immune system
4) Consider using things like Vitamin C and Echinacea and Zinc. The data is sparse on the first two, but they sure wont be detrimental in most people
5)Keep exercising and keep your body in shape
6) And lastly, but far from least important, if you are sick or feeling ill at all, PLEASE STAY HOME AND STOP SPREADING THIS DISEASE
That is all, thank you for your attention.
UPDATE: Just found this image on laboratory confirmed Influenza hospitalizations. This continues to support above statements