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Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

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Advice columnist Carolyn Hax took reader questions.

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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 09/16/2011

CDC reports on pediatric influenza deaths

Contagion “ has got many of us feeling unsettled about infectious disease.

But while our minds are inclined to gravitate toward mysterious pathogens such as the one that kills all those poor people in the film, there are plenty of comparatively mundane infectious agents circulating among us all the time. Take, for instance, influenza. The CDC Thursday issued a report on pediatric deaths from influenza -- “the flu” -- in the year ending Aug. 31.

In that time, 115 children under 18 died from influenza. Almost half of the deaths (46 percent) occurred in children under 5. Of the children who died, 49 percent -- again, almost half -- had no known medical conditions that placed them at high risk of dying from influenza.

Perspective is important, of course. As horrible as it is to have even a single child die, in epidemiological terms the numbers here are fairly small, small enough that pediatric deaths from influenza are, according to the report, regarded as “rare.”

Still, am I the only one who finds it shocking to learn that of the 74 children for whom vaccination records were available, 17 had been fully vaccinated against influenza?

We shouldn’t take that statistic as reason to throw up our hands and skip the shots; surely influenza vaccinations have saved countless children’s lives over the years. But it does remind us that mankind is locked in long-term battle with potentially deadly pathogens, and no matter how vigilant we are, sometimes those pathogens will win.

And that reality is why I have no desire to see “Contagion,” even though I hear it’s excellently crafted and acted. I worry enough already.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 09/16/2011

 
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