Influenza: The last great plague of humankind

by admin on February 1, 2014

flu-virus_600x338Some of us get the shots, we listen to the warnings that the season is here, and we wash our hands multiple times a day, yet the flu still poses a serious threat to the U.S. and around the world.  And the threat is nothing to sneeze at – because the flu has been called “The last great plaque of humankind.”

Experts tell us that the only way to control it is through immunization programs.  That’s right. The dreaded and highly debatable flu shot is their answer.

It used to be that we focused on making sure the elderly got the flu shot as they were the ones who were most at  risk, but it turns out this is not the most effective way to stop the spread of the virus.  Studies from computer modeling programs show that just immunizing 20 percent of kids in a community is more effective than immunizing 90 percent of the elderly in that same community.  Another study estimated that immunizing 70 percent of schoolchildren could protect an entire community (from the young to the old) from getting the flu.

The reason? Schools and kids are “super spreaders” of the virus.

In Japan, they started a childhood vaccination program 10 years ago.  They made it mandatory for all kids to get the flu shot.

Here are the results:

  • Excess deaths from influenza fell by half
  • Death caused by pneumonia, which is a common flu complication, also fell by half

The study also estimated that for every 420 kids immunized, one life was saved.  And when they ended the mandatory immunizations, the death rates associated with the flu rose dramatically.

While mandatory flu vaccines in schools isn’t something we’ll be implementing in the U.S., there are voluntary flu shot programs around the country.

More information on the flu:

8 things you need to know about the influenza virus

Cold versus flu symptoms

How the flu attacks your body

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