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Could Influenza-like illnesses misrepresent the gravity of actual influenza?

In a guest editorial published in BMJ's Clinical Evidence by Tom Jeffereson, Coordinator for the Cochrane Vaccines Field, Rome, Italy, he concludes, after looking at data from the control arms of 95 influenza vaccine trials involving 1 million subjects over the course of four decades, that influenza is a relatively rare cause of influenza-like illnesses and is therefore "a relatively rare disease." He suggests vaccines may not be appropriate preventive interventions for either influenza or influenza-like illnesses.

Number-wise, Jefferson reports while the incidence of influenza is estimated at around 7% of the population, the control arms of the 95 studies identified evaluate people with influenza-like illness. "Therefore, 7% is not the absolute incidence of influenza in the general population, but is rather the portion of influenza-like illness that is caused by influenza, making the incidence of influenza itself in the general population much smaller (approximately 0.5%). A brief review of pie studies published in the past decade and available in the Cochrane database paints a remarkably similar picture to that of control arms, with an incidence of influenza of 0.5% to 1% of influenza-like illnesses."

The Cochrane Vaccines Field was founded to facilitate the gathering of evidence on vaccines and their effects with the end goal of developing a Vaccines Register comprising all relevant studies on the effectiveness, the safety and the economical aspects of vaccines.

Click "source" to read the full editorial.

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