Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dissecting All This H1N1 Information

Disclaimer: First off, I am by no means suggesting that H1N1 is not a serious virus that causes many people to become sick.

A coworker was explaining how he was definitely not getting the H1N1 vaccine because it causes paralysis. This got me to wondering. I am a scientist, therefore numbers are what make sense to me. Here we go.

The odds of contracting H1N1 is 5-30%. The odds of contracting the seasonal flu is 5-20%.

0.1% of H1N1 cases end in death. So, the odds of dying from H1N1 worldwide is 5 million to 1.

The odds of dying from the flu (any flu) during your lifetime is 1 in 62.8.
source: CDC

So what is the big deal? It seems comparable to the seasonal flu. The big deal is that severe seasonal flu reactions usually occur in people 65 and over. Not with the H1N1. They seem to be somewhat immune to the virus. So the severe reactions to H1N1 are occurring in younger people. Mostly from high risk groups still, though.

Here are some interesting facts in case you are still really scared of dying from H1N1.

The odds you will die from cancer is 1 in 6.8
The odds you will die from a vehicular collision with a deer is 1 in 28,831.3.
The odds you will die from lightning (this is a good point of reference) is 1 in 79,746.1.
The odds you will die from a dog attack is 1 in 208,225.9.
The odds you will die from a collapsing sand hole is 1 in 3,982,321.3.

source: Political Calculations

Those are all more likely than you dying from H1N1.

Okay the vaccine. You cannot get H1N1 from the vaccine. It needs cold to activate and your body is not cold.

Everyone seems to be worried about Guillain Barre Syndrome. Basically it "is a rare neurological illness with symptoms ranging from mild muscle weakness to complete paralysis." source: The Faster Times You can contract this syndrome from the virus itself. If the vaccine increases this risk, it is very slight bringing it up to 1 in 1 million. So basically if you are worried about contracting this then you should be worried about it whether you get the vaccine or not.

The big deal is that in 1976 the H1N1 vaccine was produced differently. The odds of getting Guillain Barre Syndrome in '76 was 1 in 100,000. That is indeed much higher. But now the vaccine is produced the same as all other flu vaccines.

Like with vaccines such as Tetanus and MMR the odds of getting serious side effects are smaller than contracting the disease. This is why people get vaccinated in the first place.

I know that there are people who do not believe in vaccines and they will not get this one. I respect that. But to say that this vaccine is more dangerous than any others, I believe, is a fallacy.

So, yes, wash your hands, cough into a tissue, get your vaccines and stop worrying so much about dying. You are far more likely to be killed going home from work today than being killed by this virus.


  1. Thank you for posting this. The media frenzy makes me so angry. Remember Sars? Bird flu? People stopped eating poultry for fear of getting it for crying out loud.

  2. I'm so glad you wrote this. I didn't know you were a scientist.. woohoo smarty pants!

  3. After my morning...I'll take the Sandhole option please :).

  4. I've got my flu shot, and I'm not so worried-yet-about H1N1. I am a tad concerned, though, because Ella Numera Dos refuses to get any shots at all. She's just a big baby, and I feel I need to haul her down to the clinic myself and sit on her while she gets vaccinated...

  5. The people over 65 probably already have an immunity from an older strain of the bird flu that went through in the late sixties and then again in the mid-70s (you referenced that there). But no one seems to want to focus on this fact. Finally, a voice of reason.

  6. It does put it in perspective. Thanks! Now, what are the odds of getting struck by lightning vs. dying from that strike. This is what keeps me up at night!!!

  7. Very interesting facts Dr. Raine! Now I'm worried about being killed by a deer! We live in a semi-rural area and see them on the roads all the time. Thanks for giving me the odds. I'll be counting my neighbors from now on! ;)


Whatcha think?