Overall, 2.1 percent of patients taking statins died, compared to 3.2 percent of patients not taking statins. That means patients taking statins were just under 50 percent less likely to die.
But how quickly do the statins exercise protective effects? Few people will start taking statins before they get the flu in order to cut an already pretty low risk of dying from H1N1.
Update: Someone points out that the real reduction in the risk of dying is 35%. But the 50% figure would be (almost) correct if one used the lower rate as the reference point. The people not taking statins are 47.6% more likely to die.
Another commenter recommends vitamin D. Vitamin D does reduce respiratory infections in children and other lines of evidence point toward an anti-influenza effect from vitamin D. Knowing all this I decided some weeks ago to become more consistent about taking 2000 IU of vitamin D daily.
Medical and scientific experts now agree that bacteria, not influenza viruses, were the greatest cause of death during the 1918 flu pandemic.
Government efforts to gird for the next influenza pandemic – bird flu or otherwise – ought to take notice and stock up on antibiotics, says John Brundage, a medical microbiologist at the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Brundage's team culled first-hand accounts, medical records and infection patterns from 1918 and 1919. Although a nasty strain of flu virus swept around the world, bacterial pneumonia that came on the heels of mostly mild cases of flu killed the majority of the 20 to 100 million victims of the so-called Spanish flu, they conclude.
If the H5N1 avian influenza or some other flu strain mutates into a form that cause cause a severe pandemic then a big store of antibiotics could help. If you are into personal survival and don't trust your government then you could try to talk a doctor into giving you some antibiotic prescriptions and then store the drugs in a cool dry place. Anyone know about shelf life for various antibiotics? Which ones last the longest?
The most important thing to do in a pandemic is to avoid getting exposed to the virus in the first place. While facial masks can help simply staying away from other people is the best way to avoid a bug.
Count on capitalists to find ways to satisfy increased demand. Tamiflu production capacity will be an order of magnitude greater in 2006 than it was in 2003.
"There's a shortage right now," said William M. Burns, head of Roche's pharmaceutical division. But he quickly added that the company plans to raise annual production capacity to 300 million courses of treatment by this time next year: a drastic increase from 55 million this year and more than 10 times the output capacity in 2003.
"This is a capacity significantly larger than the cumulative number of orders we have," Mr. Burns said.
If H5N1 avian flu does not mutate into a human pandemic strain the next year then anyone wanting to stockpile Tamiflu will have a much easier time doing so next summer.
But if you take the flu pandemic threat seriously then the best preparations that you can take in advance are measures that would decrease your odds of getting exposed to influenza in the first place. Stockpile high quality face masks. Take a job or adjust your job in ways that will allow you to reduce your exposure to other people. Save money ahead of time so that you can live off that money rather than go to an office every day that has lots of people in it.
The pandemic preparation option I'd most like to have that is technically possible but not now available: Get vaccinated against current H5N1 strains in order to build partial immunity against a pandemic strain.