NYU Langone doctor: Flu is still bigger threat than Enterovirus D68

Michael Phillips, MD, director of infection control and prevention at NYU Langone

Michael Phillips, MD, director of infection control and prevention at NYU Langone

By Sabina Mollot

Amidst the spreading of a serious respiratory illness in 18 states so far, including New York, last week, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer urged the Center for Disease Control to provide more resources to local hospitals in the face of Enterovirus D68 as well as resources to help spread awareness about it.

Twelve children have contracted the virus in New York State so far, including one resident of New York City. There have been a total of 153 confirmed cases of the virus in 18 states between August and September 18 and the virus is suspected of causing the death of a New Jersey pre-schooler. Part of the problem, Schumer noted is that at first, the virus may appear to be a cold which can then lead to more serious symptoms that can lead to hospitalization.

However, this week, the director of infection control and prevention at NYU Langone, Michael Phillips, MD, said that while New Yorkers should always be vigilant about any threat to their health, statistically, catching the flu is still a far bigger risk than D68.

“What captures people’s attention is when there’s a new, novel infection out there, people wonder, ‘Am I and my loved ones at risk?’,” he said.

Phillips added that while conditions like D68 and even ebola are currently a cause for concern for healthcare practitioners, for the community, the hospital’s main goal is prevention the spread of the flu.

“I think the flu for sure is a constant and has a devastating toll in the community,” he said. “We have vaccines and they’re underutilized. We had an unpredictable season last year and one of the things you can say about the flu each year is that it’s unpredictable.”

Last year, what was unusual in flu patterns was that people were coming down with it late in the season, even April, as much as they were around the holidays. Then, there was an outbreak of measles in the spring, and, noted Phillips, there’s always a risk of transmission when people aren’t getting immunized.

While some people are wary of getting the flu shot, Phillips is a staunch believer in its effectiveness.

“Everything has a potential side effect, but the vaccine is one of the incredible advances in health care,” he said. “No vaccine is 100 percent, but you’re not just protecting yourself. You’re protecting others around you who are not able to get it or for whom it’s not working as well as it should.”

For this reason, he recommends everyone over the age of six months old gets it.

As for the possibility of contracting D68 or another enterovirus, Phillips noted that the circulation of enteroviruses tends to slow down as the weather gets cooler.

There are at any given time, over 100 types of enterovirus. As far as D68 is concerned, not everyone who contracts is necessarily going to end up in the hospital. (NYU Langone has yet to see any cases.)

“Some people will find that it’s mild, like a summer flu or cold,” he said, while noting for others it’s more severe, causing serious infections. “These are things that might lead to limb paralysis, a severe infection.”

But, he still added, that while the hospital is focused on D68 it’s “not in our community” and area residents’ main concerns should still be on “basic health.”

3 thoughts on “NYU Langone doctor: Flu is still bigger threat than Enterovirus D68

  1. It is very sad that segments of the media — especially the FOX NEWS CHANNEL is spreading hyped, unrealistic and threatening “news” concerning ebola. and Enterovirus D68. And yes, the annual outbreaks of the “flu” does kill about
    10,000 persons a year in the U. S. — with kids and older people being at grater risk.

    I guess, anything for ratings, more viewers and revenues.

  2. I get a flu shot every year, and I either do not get the flu or get a very mild case. When I do not get a vaccination the flu usually hits and hits hard. It is one of the worst things one can endure, headache, fever, body aches, sleepless nights, and general suffering, not to mention the risk of hospitalization and many missed work days. Getting a flu shot is the best prevention. In short the vaccine works.

    Yet every year I hear people saying they do not get a vaccine for all the wrong reasons, including they don’t think it works (it does) or that it can give you the flu (which I understand is rare and has never happened to me) or that it causes autism (no one in my family is autistic in spite of having many, many vaccinations).

    Getting a flu shot also protects the young and elderly around you who are much more vulnerable. Just walk into any Duane Reade or CVS and they will give you a vaccination right away, and there are many city clinics and hospitals that offer it for free.

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