PCMS President Marks 100th Anniversary of Flu Pandemic

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the deadliest catastrophe of the 20th century – the 1918 influenza pandemic (also called the Spanish flu).  World War I probably caused 40 million deaths, and World War II (which was the deadliest military conflict in history) was estimated to have caused the death of 60 million people.  However, the 1918 influenza pandemic may have killed up to the same number of people as both World Wars together.  It killed 3-5 percent of the world’s population at the time. Only smallpox, measles, Black Plague, and malaria have ever caused more deaths (and none of those killed in as short of a time period and the 1918 flu pandemic).

Let us use the 100th anniversary to renew our commitment to fight influenza.  Last year when the vaccine effectiveness was low it was estimated that 80,000 Americans died from the disease which included 180 children (most of them were unvaccinated).  It also caused 900,000 hospitalizations which was also a recent record.

Encourage everyone to get vaccinated now and stress the importance of handwashing.  In the age of value-based medicine getting the flu shot is probably the easiest way to decrease health care utilization for your patients.  In one large study of patients over 65, there was a 39% reduction in pneumonia hospitalizations, 27% decrease in CHF hospitalizations and a 50% reduction in all-cause mortality among people who were vaccinated.

Roy Loewenstein

PCMS president 2018