The Doctors Next Door

Is This Flu More Deadly than Others?


First, I want to make sure you have the follow-up on Michelle Fahle's cause of death.  The coroner has stated that she had a heart defect that was a "strong" contributor to her death and made her more susceptible to the H1N1 virus. I know that's no consolation for her family.

I heard a report today on a television news program that made it sound like H1N1 was more "deadly" than originally anticipated.  I feel the need to put that alarming little statement in perspective.

Folks, we're in a pandemic.  Additionally, this pandemic has hit at two different intervals this year that are unusual for the flu.  First we saw it in late Spring, after our regular flu season was winding down. Now we're seeing it in early fall.  In my years of practice, I've come to expect to see the first few cases of influenza right after Thanksgiving. 

So when the news reports that 19 children have died of H1N1 in the past week which is many more than in a whole flu season, we need to remember that to a great extent, this is a phenomenon of the numbers. We are also especially alarmed because kids are being impacted.  Even though the comparison of 3 pediatric deaths for the whole last flu season, this is not because H1N1 is more deadly than other viruses we've seen in years past.  

Last year the flu accounted for 7% of all deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the current proporation of deaths seen due to Influenza is "at the epidemic threshold". That threshold number is 7.9%. This means that around 7.9% of all deaths are due to Influenza.  It would make sense that in the face of a pandemic, proportionately a greater percentage of all deaths would be due to the flu.

Make sure you do what you can to prevent the illness. Wash your hands, cover your mouth, stay home if your ill but not seriously so and get immunized.

Oh, and's okay to eat pork! Pork farmers are really hurting!

There's a handy little tool available that can help you assess whether you and your family should get the flu shot. You can find it here. The website was put together by:


Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition



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Ed Marston said:

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From CBS News: Swine Flu Cases Overestimated?
After watching the video and reading the report, I have misgivings. This statement, "In late July, the CDC abruptly advised states to stop testing for H1N1 flu, and stopped counting individual cases. The rationale given for the CDC guidance to forego testing and tracking individual cases was: why waste resources testing for H1N1 flu when the government has already confirmed there's an epidemic?", especially bothers me.

Dr. Carrie said:


Flu testing is anywhere between 10 and 70% sensitive. So a negative test shouldn't necessarily reassure you that you don't have the flu. The guidance is to treat patients based on clinical judgement. For example if a doctor feels a child has a severe case of the flu--H1N1 or seasonal--that doctor is advised to treat accordingly without any test results. A positive test result doesn't mean anything in the context of mild illness. The treatment recommendations should be the same--fever control, hydration, rest.

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