Responses in a recent survey ranged from blaming Hurricane Sandy (with a government coverup) to profit motivations by BigPharma to vaccine inffectiveness.
- Flu myths: Know your bug (sacbee.com)
- CDC: Flu activity continues to be high across the United States (medicalxpress.com)
- How To Avoid The Flu Epidemic While Traveling (gadling.com)
- US flu epidemic worsens, 29 children dead (terradaily.com)
From the 1 January 2012 article at newswise
newswise — Monitoring Internet search traffic about influenza may prove to be a better way for hospital emergency rooms to prepare for a surge in sick patients compared to waiting for outdated government flu case reports. A report on the value of the Internet search tool for emergency departments, studied by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine over a 21-month period, is published in the January 9 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The researchers reported a strong correlation between a rise in Internet searches for flu information, compiled by Google’s Flu Trends tool, and a subsequent rise in people coming into a busy urban hospital emergency room complaining of flu-like symptoms….
PITTSBURGH—The flu shot, typically the first line of defense against seasonal influenza, could better treat the U.S. population, thanks to University of Pittsburgh researchers.
New research that focuses on the composition and timing of the shot design was published in the September-October issue of Operations Research by Pitt Swanson School of Engineering faculty members Oleg Prokopyev, an assistant professor, and Professor Andrew Schaefer, both in the Department of Industrial Engineering, and coauthors Osman Ozaltin and Mark Roberts, professor and chair in Pitt’s Department of Health Policy and Management. Ozaltin, who is now an assistant professor of engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, did his research for the study as a Pitt graduate student in the Swanson School; he earned his Pitt PhD degree in industrial engineering earlier this year.
The exact composition of the flu shot is decided every year by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the decision is complicated.
“The flu’s high rate of transmission requires frequent changes to the shot,” said Prokopyev. “Different strains can also cocirculate in one season, which gives us another challenge for figuring out the composition.”
The Pitt researchers used powerful optimization methods from engineering to examine whether they could improve the yearly decisions made regarding what strains of influenza should be included in the current year’s vaccine. The strains of flu that will be most likely to appear in the regular flu season are not known with certainty, but waiting longer to finalize the composition of the vaccine and observing what strains are occurring in other parts of the world improves the accuracy of the selection. However, the longer the FDA waits to make the decision, the more likely it is that there will be insufficient vaccine produced by the start of flu season. The model developed by the Pitt researchers balances these two important characteristics of the flu selection decision and integrates the composition and timing decisions of the flu shot design….
- Flu (MedlinePlus) with links to overviews, basic information, health check tools, research articles, and more
- Flu.gov (US CDC and other federal agencies) with links to news articles, prevention tips, ask-an-expert answers, vaccine location finder, and much more
- Seasonal Influenza (Flu)(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) with links to activity/surveillance map, flu basics, treatment/prevention, info for specific groups, and more
- Grocery Store or Doctor’s Office: Does It Matter Where You Get Your Flu Shot? (livescience.com)
- Get the Flu Vaccine, America, CDC Urges (inquisitr.com)
- Flu finally makes an appearance (mysanantonio.com)
During the 1918 to 1920 global influenzaepidemic, between 50 to 100 million people lost their lives, with over a quarter of the world’s population having being infected. Although vaccines might help in the event of a similar outbreak today, the possibility still remains that vaccine production would not be able to cope with such an influx in demand to make an important impact. In addition, hospitals would probably be overstretched, leaving many patients to be cared for by family members at home.
According to Richard Larson and Stan Finkelstein, members of MIT’s Engineering Systems Division (ESD), non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) would be critical in these situations to minimize the spread of infection. Larson and Finkelstein want to inform people on how to avoid flu from spreading amongst family members and those living or working in close quarters. Larson, Mitsui Professor of Engineering Systems explains:
“We thought, let’s look at the dynamics of the home and see if there are any reasonably inexpensive steps that people could take to care for their loved ones and simultaneously minimize the chance of getting infected.”
They discovered that following simple steps, such as washing hands properly, wearing masks and strategically controlling temperature, humidity and air circulation, could all assist in decreasing the risk of flu from spreading. Even though their recommendations are based on fighting pandemic flu, these measures could also prevent the spread of the common seasonal flu, which typically kills about 30,000 people each year in the U.S. ….
- The Flu: A Guide For Parents (education.com)
- Do flu shots cause the flu? 12 influenza vaccine myths busted (cbsnews.com)
- Swine Flu: Caring for a Sick Person at Home (everydayhealth.com)
- Skip the flu vaccine? “There’s no excuse,” says CDC (cbsnews.com)
- Dec. 4-10 Is National Influenza Vaccination Week! (cdc.gov)
- More People Getting Flu Shots This Year (webmd.com)
- How to Choose the Right Flu Vaccine (everydayhealth.com)
- Cold and Flu Prevention (everydayhealth.com)
- 8 *BUSTED* Myths About Flu Vaccines (mayorshealthline.wordpress.com)
- Flu Myths: Fact and Fiction (abcnews.go.com)
There is a lot of information about flu vaccines and the effects it has on the human body. Most of the information regarding flu vaccines is true and factual, and is often disseminated through publications and fact sheets authored by members of such organizations as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the national office of Health and Human Services.
However, there are still misconceptions about the flu vaccine. This post will offer another avenue for correct information that keeps Boston healthy and happy.
Myth 1: Flu shots can cause the flu
All vaccines contain an inactive sample of the virus it’s meant to fight. The same is true for the flu vaccine. The body recognizes these inactive flu viruses and makes antibodies to destroy them. When an active flu virus is present in the body, the body already has stored antibodies that can and will attack the flu virus.
Myth 2: Flu shots can cause autism
This myth has gained considerable notoriety as GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann recited this misconception. The flu vaccine contains thimerosal, a preservative that has mercury. Thimerosal has been linked to many health problems, including autism. However, health and medical professionals agree that a small exposure to thimerosal will cause no more harm than some minor red irritation at the injection area.
Myth 3: Flu shots received late in the flu season are ineffective at preventing the flu
Some people believe that getting a flu shot after November is pointless. However, it is never too late to start protecting yourself. Although it is recommended that one gets a flu shot early in the season, for ample protection time. The flu season typically lasts as long as the winter season. Especially in Boston, residents can expect exposure to the flu until late February or even early March.
Myth 4: Flu shots protect for many years
Unlike most vaccines, the flu shot should be given annually. Every year the flu virus changes and new vaccines are needed so the body can continue to protect against the flu.
Myth 5: Babies should get flu shots
Although babies under the age of 6 months are at risk of catching the flu, it is not recommended that infants under 6 months get a flu shot. Instead, parents and other members of the family should get vaccinated and lessen the risk of passing the flu to their infant children.
Myth 6: Any and everyone should get a flu shot
Those who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs should not get the flu vaccine. Also, those people who have allergies to any of the other substances in the vaccine should talk to a health professional about whether or not the vaccine is a healthy choice for them. Those people who have had bad reactions to the vaccine in the past should forgo the vaccine now, too.
Myth 7: One flu shot in the season is not enough
One flu shot per flu season is enough to protect an adult against the flu. Only kids 6 months to eight years old who have no previous history of getting the flu shot, should get a second at least four weeks after the first dose.
Myth 8: The flu shot is the only option
There is also the nasal spray that protects against the flu virus. The spray is for healthy people age 2-49 who are not pregnant.
A lot of this information was pulled from CBS News and their article 12 Vaccination Myths Busted.
Related Blog item
From Urban Update
This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week (is there a Hallmark card for that?), which got me wondering whether urban dwellers have better immune systems because they’re exposed to so many people–and germs. After all, a subway car is not too dissimilar to a daycare center: uncovered coughs, shoving, and issues with sharing abound. And we know that in the long term, kids in daycare have stronger immune systems.
Without spending too much time researching this question, I came across an interestingNational Geographic piece that illustrated the impact ancient cities have had on bolstering present-day immunity. At the same time, however, a quick glance at this Google Map tracking the spread of H1N1 reminds us that urban areas were particularly hard-hit.
Moral of the story? Get a flu shot! Find a vaccination location nearby athttp://www.flu.gov/whereyoulive/index.html.
CDC Issues Initial 2011-2012 Seasonal FluView Report
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released the initial FluView report for the U.S. 2011-2012 flu season with the message that flu activity is currently low, making this the perfect time to get vaccinated.
- CDC issues initial 2011-2012 seasonal “FluView” report-cnbnews.net (gloucestercitynews.net)
- NIH grantees rebut theory that seasonal flu strains originate in tropical regions (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
- Flu Season (emilymariec.wordpress.com)
- Annual Childhood Flu Vaccines May Interfere With Development of Crossresistance (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
- More Than 690,000 Americans Have Already Been Vaccinated Against The Flu This Season, SDI Reports – Cdc Supports Expanded Access To Flu Vaccination (prweb.com)
- Flu season is coming. Are you ready? (today.msnbc.msn.com)
- Flu Season is Here – Get Vaccinated Today. (franklinmatters.org)
NIH grantees rebut theory that seasonal flu strains originate in tropical regions
Influenza researchers have found that flu strains migrate back and forth between different regions of the world, evolving along the way. This is contrary to the common belief that flu strains from the tropics are the source of global seasonal epidemics.
The research appeared online on Nov. 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was supported in part by the Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillanceand the Influenza Genome Sequencing Project, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.
“This study helps us to better understand why the persistence, movement and evolution of flu viruses are complex and largely unpredictable,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “These findings also remind us of the importance of maintaining vigilance in our global influenza surveillance efforts.”
Previous studies had shown that in general, influenza viruses in tropical regions tend to be more varied and circulate year-round rather than seasonally, like flu viruses found in temperate regions with more moderate climates. The prevailing theory had been that tropical areas of the world may be the source of flu viruses from which new seasonal flu strains originate….
none of the seven temperate and tropical regions they examined was the source of all new H3N2 flu strains in a given year. The migration pattern was more complex. Virus strains moved from one region to several others each year, and flu outbreaks were traced back to more than one source. And although the virus that migrated between Southeast Asia and Hong Kong persisted over time, its persistence was caused by the introduction of virus from the temperate regions. Therefore, the tropical regions did not maintain a source for the annual H3N2 influenza epidemics. Further, in contrast to annual flu epidemics in temperate climates, relatively low levels of genetic diversity among flu strains and no seasonal fluctuations were found in the tropical regions.
“We found that the H3N2 influenza virus population is constantly moving between regions, and every region is a potential source for new epidemics,” said Dr. Bahl. “Regions with more connections to others, such as travel centers, may contribute more to the global diversity of circulating viruses.”
The complexity of the global virus circulation found in the study suggests that efforts to control flu should include region-specific strategies, according to the researchers. In future studies, the researchers intend to examine whether the virus behaves differently in temperate and tropical areas, including regions not included in this analysis, and in places that are more or less connected to the rest of the world.
The new findings build on earlier influenza virus evolution research funded in part by NIAID (http://www.niaid.nih.gov/news/newsreleases/2008/Pages/flu_evolution.aspx). For more information about NIAID’s influenza research, visit (http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/Flu/Pages/default.aspx).
- Study finds tropical areas aren’t the only source of seasonal flu (eurekalert.org)
- Flu Season Fed by Globetrotting Viruses (livescience.com)
- Flu cases up 50% (premierlinedirect.co.uk)
- 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu more damaging to lungs, opens opportunities for bacterial infection (eurekalert.org)
- Colds and flu (bupa.com.au)
- A Flu Shot for Your Dog? (abcnews.go.com)
- Any prime-boost mix of injected or spray flu vaccine shields toddlers (eurekalert.org)
- Priming With DNA Vaccine Makes Avian Flu Vaccine Work Better (bioresearchonline.com)
- NIH Scientists Advance Universal Flu Vaccine (bioresearchonline.com)
- Colds and flu (bupa.com.au)
- Global flu watch: Report of rare flu coinfection in Southeast Asia hot spot (medicalxpress.com)
- Swine flu vaccine and pregnancy (bupa.com.au)
An evaluation of the Public Health Grid (PHGrid) technology during the 2009H1N1 influenza pandemic could enhance the capabilities of epidemiologists and disease-control agencies when the next emergent disease appears, according to a study published in the International Journal of Grid and Utility Computing***. …
…During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, however, the Public Health Informatics and Technology Program Office at the CDC together with various partners used simulated data to explore how a decentralized information architecture run on the Public Health Grid (PHGrid) might be used to acquire relevant data quickly, securely and to effectively model the spread of disease. The main advantage of building the system on the PHGrid is that it allows for disparate, distributed data and services to be used by the public health community and so avoids the obstacles seen with repurposing specialized surveillance systems.
“The speed with which public health officials can identify, respond, and deploy interventions in response to public health events has the potential to change the course or impact of a disease,” the team explains. The PHGrid framework could be used to address specific surveillance needs such as those related to novel pandemic influenza in 2009. By using advances made by the “grid” community in health and other fields, PHGrid was able to focus on specific issues without having to re-invent and re-evaluate the information technology needed by using established data tools and formats. Such an approach also avoided the need to find ways to circumvent bugs and problems that would have arisen had new technology been developed at the time for the specific purpose. …
- Mexican flu pandemic study supports social distancing (eurekalert.org)
- WHO: Swine Flu Pandemic Is Over (zocdoc.com)
- Characterizing the Epidemiology of the 2009 Influenza A/H1N1 Pandemic in Mexico (veilleprosp.wordpress.com)
Existing plans for antiviral and antibiotic use during a severe influenza pandemic could reduce wastewater treatment efficiency prior to discharge into receiving rivers, resulting in water quality deterioration at drinking water abstraction points.
These conclusions are published this week (2 March 2011) in a new paper in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which reports on a study designed to assess the ecotoxicologic risks of a pandemic influenza medical response.
The research was carried out by a team from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UK), the Institute for Scientific Interchange (Italy), Utrecht University (Netherlands), the University of Sheffield (UK), and Indiana University (USA).
The global public health community closely monitored the unfolding of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic to best mitigate its impact on society. However, little attention was given to the impact that the medical response might have on the environment.
In order to evaluate this risk, the research team coupled a global spatially-structured epidemic model that simulates the quantities of antiviral and antibiotics used during an influenza pandemic of varying severity, with a water quality model applied to the Thames catchment in southern England to predict their environmental concentrations. An additional model was then used to assess ecotoxicologic effects of antibiotics and antiviral in wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) and rivers.
The research team concluded that, consistent with expectations, a mild pandemic (as in 2009) was projected to exhibit a negligible ecotoxicologic hazard. However in a moderate and severe pandemic nearly all WWTPs (80-100%) were projected to exceed the threshold for microbial growth inhibition, potentially reducing the capacity of the plant to treat wastewater. In addition, a proportion (5-40%) of the River Thames was similarly projected to exceed key thresholds for environmental toxicity, resulting in potential contamination and eutrophication at drinking water abstraction points.
Lead author Dr Andrew Singer, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said, “Our results suggest that existing plans for drug use during an influenza pandemic could result in discharge of inefficiently treated wastewater into the UK’s rivers. The potential widespread release of antivirals and antibiotics into the environment may hasten the development of resistant pathogens with implications for human health during and potentially well after the formal end of the pandemic.”
Dr Singer added, “We must develop a better understanding of wastewater treatment plants ecotoxicity before the hazards posed by a pandemic influenza medical response can be reliably assessed. However, the production and successful distribution of pre-pandemic and pandemic influenza vaccines could go a long way towards alleviating all of the identified environmental and human health problems highlighted in our paper, with the significant added benefit of reducing morbidity and mortality of the UK population. This latter challenge of vaccination is probably society’s greatest challenge, but also where the greatest gains can be made.”