Medical Monday: Infections by the numbers

Ebola is on everyone's mind. Worldwide the death toll is approximately 2000 people most of whom were in West Africa. People are not aware that it is not easily spread. The odds of getting it in United States are vanishingly small. Sadly there is not yet any vaccine for Ebola. 

To put the death toll from Ebola into perspective consider these numbers: 

9,700,000 children under five per year die from  preventable disease.

250,000 per year,  probably more from flu or flu related complications. 

100,000 per year die of measles of cholera 

1,500,000 per year die of diarrheal disease

Now let's consider our little corner of the world, Montana. Flu season officially started at the end of September. This year Montana has had 5 confirmed cases so far. However, in the previous reporting year we had a total of 3192 cases, 313 hospitalizations and eight deaths that attributed to influenza, with the bulk of cases being in December and January. 

What about Montana's other common preventable infectious disease ? It's Pertussis of course. It is also known as whooping cough. However in the previous reporting year we had a total of 661 conference cases. There were 361 hospitalizations and 15 deaths, mostly of people over 65.

Our scourges, flu and pertussis,  are vaccine preventable diseases. What about theGuillain-Barr syndrome (GBS) , or temporary paralysis ? It too has been studied and it's incidence in the US is around 3000-6000 cases per year whether or not a vaccine was or was not received. It has been determined that one is much more likely to get GBS after flu than after a flu vaccine.

 As I look at the disease rate time charts for prior seasons of each of these vaccine- preventable diseases, I see that we are right ahead of the big bumps in numbers of cases. I hope we get ahead of the curves this year. Pertussis and flu vaccines are available everywhere now.