Too many people are hypocrites about respiratory viruses

I’ve already said my piece about enterovirus D68 in an Healthcare Triage News segment, but since the media can’t seem to stop with the scare tactics, I’m wading back in. This from Time:

A rare respiratory illness has afflicted more than 150 people in over a dozen states, with more cases expected to be announced in the coming weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All true. In fact, it’s worse than this. From the CDC itself:

From mid-August to September 19, 2014, a total of 160 people from 22 states were confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. The 22 states are Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. The cases of EV-D68 infection were confirmed by the CDC or state public health laboratories that notified CDC.

I’m not trying to minimize this. It’s horrible for the people who are being hospitalized. It’s especially terrible for children. But I wish that the media could get this breathless and offer this much coverage to diseases that are far worse. Unless I’m mistaken, there have been exactly zero deaths from enterovirus. Again – that doesn’t mean D68 isn’t serious, but you know how many children died from influenza last year in the United States? 108.

Back to the Time article (emphasis mine):

Enterovirus D68 is a rare strain of more common enteroviruses that afflict between 10 million and 15 million people every year. It can cause serious breathing problems and tends to infect children, who lack the developed immune systems needed to fight off the virus.

The people (and children) who die of influenza each year tend to be those who “lack the developed immune systems needed to fight off the virus”. They’re kids. They’re the elderly. They’re immunocompromised patients. But here’s the thing – we have a vaccine for influenza. We could massively reduce the number of people who get hospitalized (and even die) from influenza if everyone would get immunized and use the same precautions that everyone is preaching for enterovirus D68.

It would be nice to see the media spend the same amount of time focusing on that, especially since (1) it’s more dangerous and (2) we can actually do something about it. Anyone reading this who is terribly concerned about enterovirus D68, but somewhat blase about influenza, is a hypocrite.


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