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Tragic Swine Flu Death Expected

By Michael W. Smith, MD

There's no doubt that the swine flu death of a 22-month old baby is devastating. But it's important for the public to understand that this was expected and that this does not mean that the swine flu outbreak is getting exponentially worse.

We knew that there were quite a few people in Mexico that had died from swine flu. And there's no logical reason to expect that the illness would be any less severe than in the U.S. So while it's very tragic and heartbreaking to think of a little baby dying from swine flu, it's unfortunately expected with the flu.

It's important to keep in mind that in an average flu season -- and I'm talking about the normal winter flu season -- about 36,000 people die from the flu. Let me repeat that -- 36,000 people! Yes, that's a huge number and most people are shocked when I tell them that. But it helps drive home a very important point.

All types of flu are very serious and should not be taken lightly. That's why I, and the other doctors and health professionals are always trying to drive home the point of flu prevention.

Preventing the spread of swine flu is up to us -- not the government. Sure, the government is going to do everything it can to contain the virus as much as possible -- and take steps to protect people as much as they can, such as by making antiviral medications more available.

But we -- you and me -- have the true power to prevent spread of swine flu. Swine flu prevention is not rocket science -- wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, stay home if you're sick and make your child stay home if he/she is sick. While it's not foolproof, they are the most effective strategies we have for preventing spread of respiratory viruses, like swine flu.

Keep in mind that no one is suggesting that tens of thousands of people are going to die from swine flu. At this point, thankfully deaths are quite rare -- but will happen.

© 2009 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.





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