H1N1: We report, you decide

Sometimes the best way to understand a situation is to see a graphical representation of it.

Below is a graph of pediatric influenza deaths over the past 4 years. I have adapted it from a graph created by the CDC that can be found here. The graph shows the number of pediatric deaths each week for the past 4 years. The green bars represent seasonal flu deaths; the pink bars represent deaths from confirmed H1N1 influenza.

The graph represents in the starkest possible way the difference between the H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu.

Seasonal flu can and is fatal in some children. Each year, primarily from February to May, some children will die of the seasonal flu.After that, pediatric deaths typically drop off to almost zero until the next flu season.

Something entirely different happened this year. Not only did flu deaths not drop off, but H1N1 flu is claiming children in higher numbers than the seasonal flu ever did. The graph does not show it, but unlike the children who die of seasonal flu who typically suffer from underlying medical conditions, healthy children are also dying of the H1N1 flu.

Could the H1N1 flu still burn out? Certainly that could happen, but there is no evidence that the tide has turned. Based on the fact that incidence of the flu typically rises dramatically in the winter, we are on track for an especially deadly flu season.

We could wait and see what happens, or we can attempt to head off disaster with a vaccination program. Look at the graph. What would you do?