Your Odds of Dying of the Flu Are Better Than Winning Powerball, NH Doctor Says
Your chances of dying of the flu are better than winning Powerball, a New Hampshire doctor says.
Dr. William Storo, a Pediatrician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock spoke to the "The Morning Wake Up" with Nazzy and Tara on 98.3 LNH on Wednesday. (You can listen to the full interview at the end of this article.)
Storo said 1 in 10,000 people will die of the flu each year.
“The odds of winning Powerball are about 1 in 300 million and so the odds are about 30,000 times greater that you are going to die of the flu then win a Powerball if you buy a Powerball ticket,” Storo said.
The flu is now widespread in every state except Hawaii, but the season appears to already be peaking.
An update released Jan. 5 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows patient traffic for flu is no longer skyrocketing the way it was in December.
In New Hampshire, 10 adults have had flu-related deaths so far this season, according to a report released Wednesday by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.
The flu-related deaths have occurred in Belknap, Cheshire, Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford counties. No pediatric influenza-related deaths have been identified in New Hampshire this season.
Someone won a huge Powerball jackpot Jan. 6 from a ticket sold in Merrimack.
What is the flu?
Storo says what people typically think of as the flu is not the influenza virus.
“The flu is not a stomach virus. You do often vomit with the flu but the flu is a coughing illness, a respiratory illness, stuffy, runny nose, cough, high fevers, body ache and then usually vomiting,” he said. “Influenza is that really high fever, coughing, miserable stay-in-bed, don’t go to work with Nazzy type of thing.”
Why is this year worse?
The strain of flu and the vaccine come into play each year as to how many people may become ill.
The CDC guesses at the strain of flu likely to hit and puts it in the vaccine. Some years they guess better.
Storo said in a bad year, the vaccine is 10-30 percent effective and on a good year it's 70-80 percent effective. If the type of strain is newer or more aggressive, that also can cause more illnesses.
“It depends on the virus that is circulating around. If it hasn’t been around for a while people don’t have any past immunities from it,” he said. “When it’s really cold out — and it’s been cold across the nation — people will huddle inside more so they are around each other more. If one person gets the flu, and you are inside with them, you’re going to potentially get it.”
How vaccine improvements are being made
Researchers hope they're finally closing in on stronger flu shots, ways to boost much-needed protection against ordinary winter influenza and guard against future pandemics at the same time.
"We have to do better, and by better, we mean a universal flu vaccine. A vaccine that is going to protect you against essentially all, or most, strains of flu," said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.
Labs around the country are hunting for a super-shot that could eliminate the annual fall vaccination in favor of one every five years or 10 years, or maybe, eventually, a childhood immunization that could last for life.
Fauci is designating a universal flu vaccine a top priority for NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Last summer, he brought together more than 150 leading researchers to map a path. A few attempts are entering first-stage human safety testing.
How you can protect yourself
The flu shot is the only protection, Storo said. This year's shot is about 30 percent effective. If you have had the shot and still get the flu, the shot can make the case less severe.
Storo said it's not too late to get a shot.
Other ways you can decrease your chances of contracting influenza include washing your hands or using hand sanitizer, staying away from coughing people or wearing a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
Storo said don’t touch your nose, eyes and mouth as those are easy ways to enter your body.
Material from The Associated Press Contributed to this story.