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Guess What Else Is Still Running Around…Swine Flu

While I am scared of Coronavirus, I’m really scared of H1N1, or swine flu

The Doctor Is In
Mar 15 · 3 min read

With all the global concern, rightly so, surrounding the Coronavirus (SARS CoV-2), it is quite important we don’t lose sight of something else that is going on right now: H1N1 influenza.

Along with the nearly daily updates about coronavirus, the CDC puts out data on the seasonal flu every week. And, the predominant influenza A strain that is currently running around is H1N1, also known as swine flu. First discovered in the Spring of 2009, H1N1 caused devastating illness:

From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3–89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086–402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868–18,306) in the United States.

That strain is the very same influenza A strain going around right now. While I’m scared of the Coronavirus, I’m really scared of H1N1.

For several years since the 2009 pandemic, the H1N1 strain from that year has been included in the yearly flu vaccine. That is a great thing. If, however, people don’t get the flu vaccine, then that leaves themselves susceptible and vulnerable to this deadly virus.

While I’m scared of the Coronavirus, I’m really scared of H1N1.

That is why it is particularly distressing to me when I learn that a minority of Americans have received the flu vaccine. According to the CDC, only 45% of adults received the flu vaccine in the 2018 — 2019 season. That’s less than half. Thankfully, more children received the vaccine, 62.6%. That’s still not enough, and this statistic scares me just as much as the current coronavirus pandemic.

This year already, I have personally seen it kill people. What’s more, I have personally seen it kill, and cause severe respiratory failure in, young people. In addition, H1N1 causes severe illness and mortality in pregnant women as well. It’s no joke, and we should not dismiss it as, “Oh it’s just the flu.”

What should we do about it?

First, we DO NOT have to stock up on toilet paper. Second, we should do the same things to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus: hand washing, staying home if we are sick, and so forth.

Most importantly, we should get the flu vaccine. Now, there are some who can’t get the vaccine, such as those with egg allergies or who have had severe reactions in the past. Those are few and far in between. It is very important that, if we are eligible, we get the flu vaccine.

Thank God we have one for the flu, especially H1N1. We don’t yet have one for Coronavirus (and it is still unclear if one can even be developed and be safe and effective). We need to do what we can to stop the spread of all disease. That includes getting a flu vaccine, if we are eligible.

And it’s not too late. There are still several weeks left in the flu season, and it takes about a couple of weeks to develop immunity.

Flu is no joke: CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 36 million flu illnesses, 370,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths from flu. If we also can flatten that curve, it will be good for everyone.

The Doctor Is In

Written by

Thoughts and Reflections of Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa: Critical Care specialist, physician leader and author. His latest book is “Code Blue,” a medical thriller.

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