When ignorance isn t bliss: Fatal flu season ignored by media

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It seems this year that the influenza virus has mostly been out of sight and out of mind — especially in the media. But as Jennifer LaRue Huget reminds us in her article for The Washington Post, 89 children have already died during this year’s flu season. That’s the third largest number of fatalities recorded since 2004-2005, which is when the CDC required states to report influenza-associated pediatric deaths.

Even Jeff Dimond, CDC media spokesman, says that 89 deaths “is a number that’s concerning. Any number is concerning.” But Ms. Huget is worried that this year’s indifference to flu may lead to fewer vaccinations down the road. Immunization, she maintains, is our strongest weapon against influenza.

“Indeed it is,” agrees ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, who emphasizes that the flu vaccine is safe and effective. “We can’t reiterate enough that everyone, especially the young, pregnant and elderly, should be getting their flu shot every year.”

ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan took notice long ago of the absence of news coverage on this year’s flu season. “There have already been 89 deaths in children, but flu deaths among the elderly must be much higher,” she warns.

“While various media outlets publish articles on the dangers of ‘toxic’ chemicals like bisphenol A, phthalates and pesticides — which have caused zero deaths — they sidestep critical public health messages, like getting your flu shot, that have real-world applications and often tragic consequences,” adds Dr. Ross.