Published for Washington Post, January 17, 2013

The rapid onset of the flu season this year has led to illness, absenteeism, hospitalizations and, tragically, death. It has also led to speculation, misinformation and just plain falsehoods about the illness and the government’s pandemic policies. Here’s a primer on what’s definitely not true about the flu.

1. This season, the flu is deadlier than ever.

The influenza virus is one of the leading causes of death by infectious disease in the United States. It killed an average of 36,000 Americans annually in the 1990s. Approximately 675,000 Americans died in the great influenza of 1918-1919, and 70,000 perished in the Asian flu outbreak of 1957-1958. To put these numbers in perspective, about 400,000 Americans died in World War II.

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