Op-Ed: RSV is packing hospitals with sick kids, but it can be contained
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The novel influenza virus can cause respiratory illness in children ranging from fever and respiratory symptoms to pneumonia and even death in people as young as 3 or 4 years old.
When respiratory illness emerges in a community and its causative agent is unknown, it is important to identify the virus and its source at the earliest possible stage.
At the same time, we should avoid panic and hysteria from people who know little or nothing about infectious diseases.
If we use the influenza death statistics as an example, it’s easy to see why:
Influenza death rate per million people
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 2.7 million people in the U.S. die each year from influenza.
But the CDC gets a lot of questions about this rate — which it is willing to call “flu death rates” (or in some places, “influenza death rates”).
As an example, the CDC states that “from 2005 to 2009, an estimated 20,000 children died from influenza each year in the U.S.”
That isn’t a death rate, and it’s not even an estimate — it’s a death rate based on CDC’s own numbers and information and not the actual number of people who died from influenza.
If the number of deaths was different from CDC numbers, we would know that.
And while it would certainly be disturbing that so many children died from influenza, it would also be troubling if this rate was higher than CDC’s estimates.
So, why put a death rate on it?
Because people have a lot of other numbers to use to communicate about influenza. These death rates, however high, don’t really communicate all that much.
And then there’s the fact that some children have more flu than others. And, this is the case — again — in different regions of the country.
The rate per million children is really less than any other death rate, and it’s always changing.
For instance, consider the CDC’s death rate for children