The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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November 23, 2001 Issue

Overlooking real threat

Flu will kill far more than anthrax did

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

It's strange how the mind -- and the public imagination -- works.

Consider, for example, anthrax. The perceived threat of anthrax gripped much of the nation in October and November, even though there were only four deaths and fewer than 50 cases reported of all types of anthrax infections.

Meanwhile, as a nation, every year we give a collective shrug of our shoulders to a far greater threat to public health -- the flu. If this year is a normal one, 20,000 people will die of the flu. If there's an influenza pandemic -- as there was in 1957 and 1968 -- 50,000 people could die.

But we don't even notice. Many of those who die will be the very old and the very young. Some will be pregnant women. And, as anyone who has the flu knows, it's a painful disease that includes high fevers, infections, headaches, chills and sweats.

While flu vaccines are harder to come by this year, persons over 65, and persons of all ages with asthma and other respiratory diseases would be well advised to get flu shots.

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