Thursday, February 8, 2018

Look, flu's talking

  On the off-chance that in the last few weeks you’ve become a Bitcoin billionaire, you might have missed the news: this flu season has been bad.

  Real bad. And, while doctors had originally thought the already deadly virus had reached its peak a few weeks ago, it’s actually keeps getting worse. In fact, according to the New York Times, this season is set to at least equal the especially voracious 2014-2015 flu -- responsible for at least 56,000 deaths. Worse yet,  CDC statistics blame the flu that year for 127 pediatric deaths.  This year, by comparison,  53 children have already fallen victim to the flu- compared to an average of 76 over the past eighteen years.
Considering that some seasons stretch through May, we’ve still got a ways to go. 

Of course, nothing quite compares to the 1918 flu when as many as 100 million people died worldwide, including a staggering 675,000+ Americans.

Still, hospitals have set up parking lot triage tents to handle the hordes of sickened patients, whole school districts are taking sick days and our national anthem singers have been forced to take their lozenges onto the field.

So, what can we do?

First off -- wash your hands. Really. Just do it. It’s very easy and it’s a perfect frontline defense against infected mucus, saliva, and all of those others nasty places where flu bugs thrive.

  Second, get vaccinated. Studies have shown that getting kids vaccinated reduces their likelihood of dying from the flu. Yeah, yeah yeah -- the flu shot doesn’t always work. But, statistically speaking, it’s a lot better than some other options.

    I took a (not so) quick and (pretty) dirty look at state-by-state pediatric influenza rates. The results were a mixed bag.

  Looking at the five states with the lowest immunization rates averaged over the past five years of available data, we’ve made little progress getting more kids vaccinated. A brief uptick in 2014 did little to change overall habits -- numbers dipped back down and have nearly returned to where they were in 2012. In sum, we saw just a 1.04% rise -- and just 0.2% averaged across all five states.

  The news, thankfully, in the top five immunization states is much better. Rates climbed nearly 23% in sum and over 4.5% on average. Still, Connecticut, I’m looking at you: what happened between 2015 and 2016?
  What’s the key takeaway? At a time of government impasse and fiscal turpitude, we need to redouble our public health efforts to get a better handle on the flu -- and get more kids vaccinated.

Mental Health's Moment