The recent medical publications on the reasons why Pandemic Flu is and has been so deadly are key information not only for scientists and physicians, but for the general public as well. May people rely on their belief that they are NOT at risk when Pandemic Flu strikes because they are young and healthy. It is this youth and vigor that actually places them at greater risk than a small child, a kindly grandfather or even a patient with HIV disease.
The immune response we all rely on to help us fight off and recover from the usual yearly flu is the precise mechanism that Pandemic Flu targets. Unlike other diseases that inactivate portions of the immune response, Pandemic Flu activates key portions of the immune response that result in massive inflammation and destruction in the lungs and other key organs. This “storm” of immunity is most prominent in those with the strongest immune system. In 2007, the group with the strongest immune system consists of those age 18 to 40 years old.
How big a difference will this make? Check the numbers:
Regardless of age, when Pandemic Flu strikes, 1 in 3 people will fall ill.
Of this 33%, hospitalization will be required by 79% of those age 18 to 40 while only 54% of those <18 or >40 years old.
Of those hospitalized, severe lung injury will occur in 80% of those age 18 to 40 while only 50% of those <18 or >40 years old.
Of those with severe lung injury, 79% of those age 18 to 40 will die while only 50% of those <18 or >40 years old will die.
What does that mean when totaled up?
26% of all people age 18 to 40 will be hospitalized (compared to 15% of those <18 or >40)
21% of all people age 18 to 40 will suffer severe lung injury (compared to 8% of those <18 or >40)
17% of all people age 18 to 40 will die (compared to 4% of those <18 or >40)
Admittedly these are the worst case numbers, but they are based on a combination of the written accounts of the 1918 Pandemic and the current H5:N1 Avian Flu Outbreak.
So what can we do? Ask a kindergartner!
Wash your hands
Don’t share drinks and eating utensils
Cover your mouth with your elbow when you yawn, sneeze or cough
Don’t sit too close to others (6 foot separations helped stop SARS in Toronto)
If you are sick, stay home
Call you doctor, don’t go to the hospital that is where the sickest people will be.
In other words, if you want to catch Pandemic Flu, hang out in the ER Lobby.
With these simple techniques, you and your family can keep yourself safe when the Pandemic comes.