The CDC's statistics on influenza—fact or hype?

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Clinicians debate the CDC's released statistics on influenza.
Clinicians debate the CDC's released statistics on influenza.

The influenza death rate is much overstated ["Influenza: complications, diagnosis, and treatment, p. 26]. According to the National Vital Statistics System, which records death rates from death certificates, the flu death rate in 2010 was 500. Of that total, maybe 10% to 15% resulted from influenza. The 36,000 total quoted includes all the pneumonias.

There are many causes of pneumonia. It is very inaccurate to be quoting this same number that the CDC and TV networks state. Three years ago, the CDC was scolded for not having the vaccine committees of more than 200 people reveal their financial ties to vaccine manufacturers. More than 65% had some relationship with them. Does that create a bias to inflate these statistics? Look at the vaccine inserts. They state no evidence of efficacy proven and are not sure about safety with young children and pregnant women. What other drug do we prescribe that we encourage people to take on such a wide scale? Influenza vaccines should be offered for those who desire it, but please inform them of the correct data to make an informed decision. —PAUL BATTLE, PA-C, Denver (206-1)

Not everyone is tested for influenza, so the numbers are going to be skewed. The 36,000 people with pneumonia, many possibly undiagnosed with the flu, need to be considered in the statistics, especially if a viral syndrome is described prior to death. Even in our small community, the death rate is calculated in association with a recent viral syndrome. If we had no vaccine for the flu (even considering the poor "match" years), how many people would be ill and die? Do we need to go there again? —THERESA RUCKER, PA, Orlando, Fla. (206-2) 

These are letters from practitioners around the country who want to share their clinical problems and successes, observations and pearls with their colleagues. We invite you to participate. If you have a clinical pearl, submit it here.
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