CDC: 56,000 Dead from Flu...in 2006
In 2005, the flu killed 63,001 people in the United States, according to the CDC. But that year the President of the United States did not use a primetime news conference to admonish the American people that they must wash their hands, and the Vice President did not say he would not want his family to have to ride on a plane or a subway because someone might sneeze near them.
An average of 36,171 people died each year of flu in the United States from 1993 to 2003, according to a recent CDC study.
Despite the recent fervor surrounding swine flu, conventional flu viruses have killed far more people than other, more publicized, strains in recent years. Avian flu, for example, has killed 257 people worldwide since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. It has killed no people at all in the United States.
Other not-well-publicized infectious diseases also have very high death rates compared to the swine flu has doen so far.
Septicemia, or blood infection, killed 34,234 Americans in 2006, the vast majority of whom were senior citizens, the same group that makes up the majority of flu-related deaths.
HIV-- the virus that causes AIDS--killed 12,113 people in 2006. Of those, 8,387 were between the ages of 35 to 54. The CDC reports that 75 percent of Americans who die from HIV are men who contract the disease through homosexual acts or intravenous drug use.
Intestinal infections caused by the clostridium difficile bacterium killed 6,225 people in 2006. Clostridium difficile is a bacterium found in human feces which normally infects elderly people during hospital stays or when they are on strong antibiotics.
Hepatitis, a disease frequently spread through sexual contact or drug use, killed 7,250 people, while meningitis--typically spread through poor hygiene and sanitation--killed 634.
Meanwhile, the current swine flu outbreak has claimed the life of one person, who did not contract the disease in the United States--and 168 people in Mexico.
On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden told viewers of NBC’s Today show that he wouldn’t be going anywhere in a confined place such as a train or airplane, due to the outbreak of swine flu.
“I would tell members of my family--and I have--that I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places,” Biden said. “It’s not just going to Mexico--if you’re in a confined aircraft and one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft.”
President Obama recommended that Americans have a swine-flu contingency plan in place, should the current outbreak intensify. He made no mention of other diseases that have killed more Americans.
“(W)e’ve recommended that both parents and businesses think about contingency plans,” the President said. “I’ve asked every American to take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu: keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you're sick; and keep your children home from school if they're sick.”