05/29/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Swine Flu and You: Emotional Epidemiology

As a primary care internist, I spend a lot of time focusing on preventive health. There are all sorts of screening tests--mammograms, colonoscopies, PSA tests--but none of these actually "prevent" disease. They are designed to find disease at an early stage, allowing treatment that, ideally, avoids the more aggressive forms of the disease.

The only preventive measures that actually prevent disease are vaccinations. Our world is an immeasurably better place since the advent of vaccines. Yet there is a complicated psychology that hovers like a fog around the idea of vaccination.

As flu season draws to a close, I'm grateful that the H1N1 outbreak turned out to be milder than expected. A combination of more moderate disease patterns and targeted immunization contributed to this. The H1N1 vaccination program turned out to be a lot more difficult than anyone expected, and only partially because of logistical issues.

In an essay in the New England Journal of Medicine, I wrote about "The Emotional Epidemiology of HINI Vaccination." I invite you to read and comment.


Danielle Ofri is a writer and practicing internist at New York City's Bellevue Hospital. She is the editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Review. You can follow Danielle on Facebook, and Twitter, or visit her homepage.

Her newest book is Medicine in Translation: Journeys With My Patients.