Flu, Who Knew?

 

In poking around the Arizona Department of Health Service website for Chinese coronavirus updates and advisories, I accidentally clicked out a level and found myself looking at all infectious diseases. So I clicked on the AZDHS influenza link, and boy was I surprised:

Who knew? Where were the big news stories? Clicking on the link led to a November press release that should have caused at least one or two breathless news segments: this year’s flu was targeting more children and young people! [emphasis added.]

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) reported today that influenza cases in Arizona have tripled compared to previous seasons at this time with more than half of reported cases this season in infants, children, and adolescents. So far this flu season 950 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases have been reported compared to 290 cases for the same time period in 2018. All counties in Arizona have reported influenza cases.

“The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get your flu vaccine now if you haven’t already,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe illness and can lead to hospitalization or even death. With the holidays right around the corner and people attending gatherings with friends and family, getting a flu shot today can help stop the spread of the disease.”

Now I check the CDC and find that Arizona was not reporting an anomaly:

And what about the profile of flu victims this year?

  • Laboratory confirmed influenza associated hospitalization rates for the overall U.S. population remain moderate compared to recent seasons, but rates for children 0-4 years and adults 18-49 years are now the highest CDC has on record for these age groups, surpassing rates reported during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.  Hospitalization rates for school-aged children (5-17 years) are higher than any recent regular season but remain lower than rates experienced by this age group during the pandemic.
  • Pneumonia and influenza mortality has been low, but 144 influenza-associated deaths in children have been reported so far this season. This number is higher for the same time period than in every season since reporting began in 2004-05, except for the 2009 pandemic.

Somehow, this is all perfectly normal, not worthy of headlines. No one is shouting questions about 22,000 deaths, let along howling about the obvious wild uncertainty in the numbers. Have there really been 55,000 flu deaths so far this year in the U.S.? During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the final estimates were “12,469 deaths (8868-18,306).”

Apparently 22,000 to 55,000 deaths from an infectious respiratory disease are acceptable to American medical experts if it happens over five months. There were no stories of doctors not treating patients in need, so the system is working. I appreciate Dr. Birx and President Trump’s repeated comments, noting that this is not acceptable and that we need to leverage the current media focus to get Americans to start really doing the basics better, so next year there are far fewer bad outcomes with the flu.

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  1. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):
    Both the death panels and the ” can’t close down the economy” argument are based on the notion that the elderly are expendable because, well old.

    I believe the latter argument is based on the idea that a strong economy is necessary to save lives in the future.

    Shutting down the economy is going to kill more people than coronavirus. . . .

    Yes.

    Somewhere between “Spring break party!” and total economic shutdown there are various gradations of caution that might save a lot of lives in the short-term and not result in a greater number of untraceable deaths through failure to grow the economy.

    I don’t have a good sense of where the lines are!  I do fear America may be well into dangerous overcaution territory at this point.

    Shapiro’s advice to aim for the South Korean model as soon as possible: good advice!

    • #31
  2. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Qoumidan (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):
    I find it hysterical that suddenly, old people dying in large numbers is socially acceptable.

    It has always been socially acceptable until modern medicine has devised such incredible measures to make immortality a convincing illusion.

    Old people dying has been with us since Adam.

    Sure thing. Everybody dies. Some younger.

    So you’re good with the death panels right?

     

    That’s a false comparison. It doesn’t have to be either.

    How is it a false comparison?

    Both the death panels and the ” can’t close down the economy” argument are based on the notion that the elderly are expendable because, well old.

    And I keep pointing out that it’s not just the elderly who are going to die, unless you consider people in their 50’s and 60’s elderly.

     

    The death panels piece was not just around people being old.  But it fits your narrative pretty well, by claiming it as such.

    Conflating several mildly related topics (coronavirus, the “normal” flu season, and death panels which were not flu-specific), and then drawing conclusions from it, and then asking if people approve of death panels is, more than slightly:

    Image result for illogical spock meme

     

    • #32
  3. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    And for the benefit of those who have trouble entertaining more than one thought at a time in their minds,

    You’re referring to men, right?

    • #33
  4. Roderic Reagan
    Roderic
    @rhfabian

    Clifford A. Brown: Somehow, this is all perfectly normal, not worthy of headlines. No one is shouting questions about 22,000 deaths, let along howling about the obvious wild uncertainty in the numbers. Have there really been 55,000 flu deaths so far this year in the U.S.? During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the final estimates were “12,469 deaths (8868-18,306).”

    The Wuhan coronavirus is very different because it’s threatening to crash* our medical system, and we have no immunity or vaccines.

    The solution for most of the seasonal flu problem has long been available: get a flu shot, practice good hygiene.  But only a minority of people do so.  The case fatality rate of seasonal flu is so low that it just doesn’t register with people regardless of the aggregate numbers.

    _______________

    *Hopefully nobody will have to come to realize what that means, like having a heart attack and being sent home because there are no beds.

    • #34
  5. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Actually the CDC has no idea how many people actually die of the flu every year because they lump it into a “flu like illness” grab bag.

    I kind of picked up on that from the bits they put on their website. This is not helpful to public credibility. Whatever the case, “flu like illness” kills a lot of people every year, and seems to have been accepted, rather than aggressively combated. This is why I like the repeated comments by the president and Dr. Birx about this being unacceptable, and about basic personal and public health practices applying to all airborne respiratory ailments.

    • #35
  6. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):
    Both the death panels and the ” can’t close down the economy” argument are based on the notion that the elderly are expendable because, well old.

    That’s not exactly right. It’s certainly incomplete. And even if true, that doesn’t mean that one has to support death panels in order to be consistent while supporting more of a let-it-take-its-course policy.

    I suspect a lot of your concerns are entirely warranted, but it doesn’t help your cause when you misrepresent the positions of others who don’t agree with your emphases.

    Yes, and if people want to go to “my way or you advocate death,” then let’s take the analysis further. Crashing the economy means crashing demand for commodities out of the most impoverished parts of the world, where people already exist at the very edge of survival. So, if we are being uncharitable to one another here, just how many African children are “shut it down to save us” cool with having die of starvation or malnutrition related illness? How many mothers and elderly people?

    That is certainly not a nice question, but it is of a kind with claiming push-back on closing down the economy is uncaring towards those who will die of this latest disease. Better just to dial back the rhetoric and look at the whole set of relevant numbers, as we can get them.

    We have yet to see the cocktail napkin graph quantified, although it should have been over a month ago, but I think we will get there next week, between the real number on ventilators nation-wide, including the 12,000 in national stockpiles, and the vetted model that Dr. Birx will present, showing the expected progress of all cases and of cases so serious as to need respiratory support. That will be very welcome, no matter how good or bad the picture painted from that curve and the quantified max medical capacity line.

    From the numbers offered in the daily series by @rodin, it appears that the current COVID-19 demand on respiratory support in the U.S. is 64. That is the reported number of serious/critical cases nationwide. Yes they are relatively concentrated geographically, but that is the whole point of the national reserves, plus manpower, plus freeing civilian medical personnel to practice across state lines.

    • #36
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Roderic (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown: Somehow, this is all perfectly normal, not worthy of headlines. No one is shouting questions about 22,000 deaths, let along howling about the obvious wild uncertainty in the numbers. Have there really been 55,000 flu deaths so far this year in the U.S.? During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the final estimates were “12,469 deaths (8868-18,306).”

    The Wuhan coronavirus is very different because it’s threatening to crash* our medical system, and we have no immunity or vaccines.

    The solution for most of the seasonal flu problem has long been available: get a flu shot, practice good hygiene. But only a minority of people do so. The case fatality rate of seasonal flu is so low that it just doesn’t register with people regardless of the aggregate numbers.

    _______________

    *Hopefully nobody will have to come to realize what that means, like having a heart attack and being sent home because there are no beds.

    Except that the experts have failed to actually show the real limit of the U.S. medical capacity. That number, finally quantifying the scary red line on the cocktail napkin graph, will matter a great deal. So will Dr. Birx presenting the vetted model for projecting the course of the disease here, again with numbers attached so we can see if, in fact, we are in danger of overwhelming our real capacity to provide respiratory support to serious/severe cases. I’m looking for that to be put in front of the American public next week.

     

    • #37
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