Keep this number in mind: 36,000! This is approximately how many people die each year in the United States from the seasonal flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Keep another number in mind: 98,000! That is how many people die each year from medical...
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Only the future will tell whether this turns into a pandemic. My bet is that it will not — at least in the United States, where we are more medically sophisticated, better prepared and more knowledgeable than we were with the Spanish flu in 1918, the Asian flu in 1957 or the Hong Kong flu in 1968. The death tolls of each of these pandemics decreased as the century progressed.
The only thing that can make this flu escalate in the United States to possibly a pandemic is our failure to stop the spread from other countries because of our refusal to close borders where the H1N1 virus is more prevalent and if the virus radically changes its strain and mutates to something we do not have a vaccine for. Watch what happens in the Southern Hemisphere this summer as people there go though their traditional flu season to see if this virus will come back strong in the United States this fall. In the meantime, don't sneeze on anyone, wash your hands and be ever diligent.
GARY LUDWIG, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a deputy fire chief with the Memphis, TN, Fire Department. He has 30 years of fire-rescue service experience. Ludwig is chairman of the EMS Section for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), has a master's degree in business and management, and is a licensed paramedic. He is a frequent speaker at EMS and fire conferences nationally and internationally, and can be reached through his website at www.garyludwig.com.