The seasonal flu is associated with an estimated 54,000 to 430,000 hospitalizations and approximately 3,000 to 49,000 deaths annually in the USA. So anyone who thinks that the flu isn’t a serious disease, needs to look at those numbers again. People die. And not just the old or sick–healthy people and children are killed by the flu. And let’s not forget about more serious pandemics, like H1N1, that can kill many more people.
We’ve all heard the excuses and myths about the flu vaccines. They’re repeated over and over again not only by those who are vaccine deniers, but more often by average people who just refuse to get the vaccine. This week, a fellow blogger and someone whom I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years, Tara Haelle, spent numerous hours putting together the Top 25 Myths about the flu vaccine, which she published here. Read it. Please.
Today, the British Medical Journal published a retrospective study, by Elizabeth Miller, that analyzes the risk of narcolepsy in children and adolescents in England who received the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine (Pandemrix) from October 2009 through mid-2010. This study followed up on the observations seen in Finland and other countries that there was some increased risk of narcolepsy in children a few months after receiving the vaccine.
As background, narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. Individuals with narcolepsy often experience daytime sleep patterns, but the disorder should not be confused with insomnia. It is not caused by a mental illness or psychological problems. It is most likely affected by a number of genetic mutations and abnormalities that affect specific biologic factors in the brain, combined with an environmental trigger during the brain’s development, such as a virus. It may also be a result of an autoimmune disorder. At this time, there is no cure for narcolepsy, but it can be successfully treated by medications and other therapies.