Bloomberg Businessweek cover announces Ebola is Coming, fanning concerns

Bloomberg Businessweek cover announces Ebola is Coming, fanning concerns

23,000 Dead in the US, on average, every year from this killer virus–and up to 49,000 per year, according to the CDC. Is this Ebola? Enterovirus D-68? SARS?

As of October 10, 2014, the total number of deaths from Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is 4024. In the US, it is only 1 as of October 14, 2014. This is not to say that Ebola is not frightening and awful but the point of this blog is that 10 times the number of people will die in the US this year from this virus–and it is mostly preventable.

Here are few hints—see if you can guess which virus kills so many Americans:

According to the Word Health Organization (WHO), this virus occurs globally and attacks 5%–10% of adults and 20%–30% of children every single year. Illnesses can result in hospitalization and death mainly among high-risk groups. Worldwide, these annual epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths.

From October 2012 to May 2013, vaccination against this illness resulted in an estimated 6.6 million fewer illnesses, 3.2 million fewer medically attended illnesses, and 79,260 fewer hospitalizations, according to an article published in the CDC’s MMWR in December 2013.

 

Rows of sick and dying during the 1918 Outbreak

Rows of sick and dying during the 1918 Outbreak

In 1918, this virus killed an estimated 50 million people–more than all the people that were killed in all of World War I. One fifth of the world’s population was attacked by this deadly virus. Within months, it had killed more people than any other illness in recorded history.

Overwhelmed with the number of dead, cities began mass burials.

Overwhelmed with the number of dead, cities began mass burials.

What is this killer virus? Influenza.

In addition to Influenza, these viruses are much scarier–as far as global death rates–than Ebola:

Rabies: 55,000 people die each year

Rabies has one of the highest fatality rates of any virus; only three people in the United States are known to have ever survived the disease without receiving the vaccine after exposure to the virus. In the US, with vaccination programs, Rabies deaths have become rare but 55,000 people die of rabies every year in Africa and Asia, according to the WHO.

HIV: 36 Million dead since 1981

An estimated 1.6 million people worldwide died of HIV and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) related causes in 2012, according to the WHO.  In total, an estimated 650,000 people have died of AIDS in the United States since the disease was discovered in 1981. An estimated 36 million people have died worldwide from the epidemic.

It is important to note that most cases of HIV are preventable with appropriate precautions. For our readers, that simply means safe sex practices.

Mosquito-borne viruses: 50,000 people die each year

Spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, viruses such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever kill more than 50,000 people worldwide every year, according to estimates by the WHO and the CDC. (Malaria — which is also spread by mosquitos, but is caused by a parasite rather than a virus — kills more than 600,00 people yearly.)

Rotavirus: 440,000 dead (mostly children) die each year

The vast majority of those affected by the virus are children under the age of 5 and globally, an estimated 440,000 children who contract the virus die each year from complications, namely dehydration. In the United States, a vaccine for rotavirus was developed in 1998, but was later recalled due to safety concerns. A newer vaccine, developed in 2006, is now available and is recommended for children ages 2 months and older.

What can you do? Get your flu vaccine–today.

What if I got the flu or the flu vaccine last year, will I have immunity against the flu this year?

Not necessarily. Several studies conducted over different flu seasons and involving different influenza viruses and types of flu vaccine have shown that a person’s protective antibody against influenza viruses declines over the course of a year after vaccination and infection, particularly in the elderly. So, a flu shot given during one season, or an infection acquired during one season, may not provide adequate protection through later seasons.

The decline in protective antibody against the flu that occurs after vaccination or after flu infection may be influenced by several factors, including a person’s age, the antigen used in the vaccine, and the person’s health situation (for example, chronic health conditions that weaken the immune system may have an impact).

This decline in protective antibody has the potential to leave some people more vulnerable to infection, illness and possibly serious complications from the same influenza viruses a year after being vaccinated or infected.

So, for optimal protection against influenza, annual vaccination is recommended regardless of past vaccination status or flu infection.