Putting the N1H1 flu in perspective

By Molly Reuter - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Certainly things sound bad with 100 confirmed cases across the U.S. - 26 of those in Texas. But let's put all this in perspective. Thousands of people in the U.S. die from the seasonal flu every year. 36,000 in the U.S. and more than 250,000 world wide. So what are the differences between the flu and H1N1?

Medical experts say they are worried, and probably should be. With no vaccine for the new H1N1 flu virus, doctors say it may be harder to stop. But the seasonal influenza virus has been killing people for centuries.

"In a bad year, we are losing about 50,000 Americans," explained Dr. Ed Dominguez. "In a good year, we are losing about half of that."

Since January the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 13,000 Americans have died of complications from the seasonal flu. Nine out of 10 of those deaths are among people older than 65.

"The reason seasonal influenza is such a deadly disease particularly for older Americans and then also for people with underlying lung and heart disease and immune disorders regardless of age is because it makes it more likely for them to develop bacterial infections after the influenza," he explained.

The good news Dominguez said is only one person has died from the new strain in the United States so far, but the fact that it's new is what worries the medical community.

"Virtually everybody is susceptible to this virus and therefore we don't know what the upper mortality of it could be," he said. "We know what it is in seasonal influenza because seasonal influenza by definition is seasonal and there is some pre-existing immunity."

Dr. Ed said it could take months before a vaccine is ready for the new virus and hopes all the attention it's getting will prevent future influenza deaths.

"I hope that enthusiasm and that motivation will carry over to the seasonal flu and will help us in our efforts to get the message out about the value of influenza vaccines," he said.

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