Influenza Season – Should We Be Worried?

Unless you’re me, probably not.

Why? Because I spent countless hours researching the 1918 influenza pandemic in order to write Enza. And it’s because of that book that I tend to get a little nervous during flu season. Especially when reports are telling us that it’s worse, and starting earlier than normal.

I’m going to steal a couple of quotes from a blog I wrote last spring, titled The Spanish Influenza Pandemic, so you can see why I might worry about it more than most people.

“Estimates for the death toll, worldwide, range between twenty to forty million and fifty to one-hundred million, depending on the source…Stanford.edu states, “More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351.”  And they’re the ones estimating the lower numbers.

“To put all of this in perspective, a number of sources claim that, “If 1918-19 mortality data are extrapolated to the current U.S. population, 1.7 million people could die, half of them between the ages of 18 and 40. Globally,those same estimates yield 180-360 million deaths…”

Fast forward to present day

According to an article on the CDC website, 17,000 – 52,000 (an average of 36,000) died during each flu season from 1990 -1999.  With the population being en excess of 217 million in the United States this year, some might say that even the 52k estimate is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who live here.

If my calculations are correct, and my math skills do leave a little to be desired, the odds are 1/6,096.  (Just a FYI, according to National Geographic, we each have a better chance of being struck by lightening. It’s true. Over the course of our lifetimes, there’s a 1/3,000 chance that it could happen. I didn’t know this until a few minutes ago, and I’m not especially thrilled to find the odds are that good)

Could a pandemic like the one that happened in 1918 happen today? Who knows? Hopefully not. But I’m sure they didn’t think it could happen then either. Certainly WW1 helped facilitate the spread of the Spanish Flu, thanks to soldiers being transported like cattle on ships.

Except today, not only do we have ships, we have planes. According to CNN, “…there are roughly 10 million flights per year in the U.S. alone…” Who knows how many individual passengers that translates to? Not me, but I’m betting it’s a whole lot more than ten million.

Am I trying to scare you with this post? Not really. Just make you more aware of our history, and the fact that probably haven’t seen the last of plagues and pandemics just because we live in the modern age.

To anyone who thinks we’re past those kinds of tragedies, I have a couple of things to say about that. Antibiotic resistant bacteria and ‘superbugs.’ I won’t go into those details, but if you have some spare time, you might read the article.

So be careful. Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, try to stay away from people who are sick. My kids and I are taking 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 every day (along with a little calcium and fat for better absorption). You’d be surprised at what that can do for your health.

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On a brighter note, the first issue of my newsletter…with the first installment of Holding On To Yesterday…was sent out on Monday. If you’d like to sign up for it, just click here, fill out your email address, and then confirm that you’d like to receive it when you get the email asking you whether you really want it or not.

 

 

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