Swine flu is not any nastier than the usual seasonal flu but young people are particularly susceptible to it. The mortality rate is quite low—-even at it’s worst, flu mortality rarely goes about 1-2%, as it did in the 1918 pandemic. But this flu is attacking a very large number of people; 1% of a large number is still a large number. For a low mortality rate to reflect large numbers, a disease has to hit a lot of people. If you can lower that number significantly, the mortality rate remains the same, but fewer cases will be reflected in fewer deaths. Since this flu tends to hit the young and otherwise healthy, the deaths from swine flu may disproportionately affect the young.
Currently, pediatric mortality from the flu is at twice the level usual for this time of year, and rising.
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Thankfully, we have a way to reduce the number of cases, thereby reducing the number of deaths. Vaccination reduces deaths from the flu in two ways—by reducing the overall number of cases, and by reducing the severity of cases in people who get the disease despite being vaccinated.
You may look at the national data and think, “Well, less than 150 kids have been killed by the flu so far this year. That doesn’t seem like anything to be alarmed about.” As a parent, I’m alarmed. Presumably, none of these dead children had been vaccinated—the swine flu vaccine is not yet widely available and most of these cases were swine flu. Think of the hundreds of other deaths we can actually prevent with vaccination this year. There are potentially hundreds of more children who will die of the flu this year, not because it is more virulent, but because it is more common. We can reduce this number with one simple intervention. Do it.