Flu Season Also Brings Flu Fatigue

After last year's barrage of information about H1N1 — or the so-called swine flu — health officials worry people may head into this season with what they've termed flu fatigue. Laurie Johnson has more.

Last flu season was an anomaly by just about any measure. Record numbers of people were vaccinated. There was near constant coverage by the media on the spread and prevention of H1N1.

Dr. Paul Etkind says the measures taken actually worked. Etkind is an immunization expert with the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

"We had such an aggressive vaccination program and so many people, for the first time, did receive the vaccine. And I think that's reflected in the lower end of deaths that we saw in the United States last year. I think it was estimated that we had around 12,000 or so, maybe a little more than 12,000 people die as a result of flu."

That's about one third the typical number of deaths from flu. But Etkind says last season's good news may mean bad news this time around because people are more complacent. He calls it flu fatigue.

"It's an error to assume that it's mild so it's no big deal. We had schools close, we had businesses shut down last year, a lot of people lost time from work. That speaks to a major cost, not only to individuals, but also to society. So I think that flu, regardless of whether we think it's mild or severe, it takes a toll."

Etkind says instead of becoming complacent, people should remember the extra precautions taken last flu season worked and can be duplicated every year if the same effort is made.
 

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...