Flu Deaths Are Real Despite Claims By Texas Politician

Stephanie Dugger, 20, of Apache Junction, gets a flu shot from nurse Bhagwati Bhakta at Mollen Immunization Clinics in Scotts
Stephanie Dugger, 20, of Apache Junction, gets a flu shot from nurse Bhagwati Bhakta at Mollen Immunization Clinics in Scottsdale, Ariz. Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Arizona health officials say flu activity is widespread in the state this week with influenza reported in 14 of its 15 counties. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Cheryl Evans) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES

In the midst of a flu outbreak that health officials say has reached epidemic proportions, one Texas politician made a startling statement this week.

"You don't die from the flu," Houston city council member Jack Christie said Wednesday as he cast the lone vote opposing $3 million in federal money for vaccinating children (although those funds aren't for flu vaccinations), KHOU in Houston reported.

That's just not true. The flu killed between 3,000 and 49,000 people each year between 1976 and 2007, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2003 CDC study estimated the flu took an average of 36,000 lives a year from 1990 through 1999.

The current flu season already has claimed the lives of 29 children, the CDC said Friday. The flu was associated with 829 children's deaths between 2004 and last year, CNN reported in October.

Fatalities from the flu, which are more likely among older people, are worse than normal, Bloomberg News reports.

Last week, 8.3 percent of all deaths reported through the CDC's tracking system were due to the flu and pneumonia, above the 7.3 percent level for an epidemic. The current flu season could lead to 36,000 deaths....

Christie also said flu vaccinations aren't necessary because the human body has a way to shut that whole thing down. "Natural immunity is the best prevention," he said, according to KHOU. Christie is a chiropractor.

In the Journal of the American Medical Association Friday, Thomas Talbot and Keipp Talbot of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., break down some of the myths about flu vaccinations, including that it doesn't work.

Misperceptions about influenza vaccine are common and often deeply rooted; for the protection of patients, colleagues, and loved ones, these perceptions must continue to be addressed, and the approach should be to immunize, immunize, immunize!