Despite the heavy media coverage and widespread concern surrounding the Ebola virus, Americans face a more serious health threat — influenza or as what we like to call it the Flu.
“It’s complicated. It’s exotic. It’s something you hear about on the news every day,” said Dr. Edward Waltz, director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at the University at Albany, of the Ebola virus. “Objectively, the flu is a lot worse.”
The Ebola virus is responsible for 3,338 deaths in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
With that said…
More than 226,000 Americans are hospitalized with flu and approximately 36,000 die from flu-related complications every year but you won’t and don’t hear about that on the news.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the 2013-14 flu season, only 46 percent of Americans received flu vaccinations which they believe would dramatically drop the flu related deaths in the United States.
The first case of Ebola in the United States was confirmed by CDC on Tuesday. Thomas Eric Duncan was isolated in intensive care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas once his symptoms were recognized.
Since then, the unfamiliar and dangerous Ebola has become a focus of health care attention, taking the spotlight from the annual arrival of influenza, which peaks between the months of December and February.
The first known case of Ebola was in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. Since then, 30 Ebola outbreaks have been reported. Not everyone who is infected dies. The mortality rate for the current Ebola outbreak is 51 percent, according to the CDC.
“The reality is there are vaccinations and treatment options available for the flu that are not available for Ebola. The reason for concern is there is no magic bullet to stop Ebola,” said Waltz.
It’s also harder to contract.
The initial infection is so much easier in flu than it is in Ebola. The Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact of mucous membranes or broken skin cells. For someone to infect another person with the flu, the infected person only has to speak, cough or sneeze near the other person.
Influenza’s unpredictability makes controlling it difficult. Because the flu virus mutates and changes each season, identifying which strain will pose a threat can’t always be determined beforehand.
During the 2013-14 flu season, the 2009 H1N1 strain was the most virulent at the start of the season but the influenza B strain later became the main cause of infection.
The CDC states that the most important message to get is take action on the things that you can control. We have so many things that affect our health that we can’t control, get yourself a vaccination if it is available to prevent yourself from contracting influenza.