Skeptical question of the day (seasonal flu deaths)

October 31, 2007  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

Dave wrote:

Today's paper again mentioned the 36,000 deaths per year from flu...........and I believe I've heard / read that the only way that kind of figure will hold up to scrutiny is if 1918-1919 is included!...........what is your take on this statistic?

How many people died of flu in 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003.............?

Thanks in advance,


This is seasonal flu, having nothing to do with even the last pandemic of 1968 (the Hong Kong flu). The CDC uses the number of 24,000 - 36,000, which the media naturally convert to solely the top end. I'll bet 24,000 is more like it.

Further, there's a lot of what's called the "harvesting effect." Flu causes few deaths outside the elderly population and probably kills those elderly not too long before something else does.

That said, I get my annual flu shot because I cannot afford any down time that I might otherwise have prevented. Plus, it adds to herd immunity so that it protects those who might get more seriously ill than I am but either didn't get the vaccine or are insufficiently protected.

In fact I've even had the pneumonia vaccine, which can prevent secondary bacterial infections from attacking immune systems under assault from the flu virus. Unfortunately, while it protects against 23 different bacterial strains, it does not protect against the worst of them - staphylococcus.