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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News item] Adults only really catch flu about twice a decade

Don’t think the article is advocating skip the annual flu shots!

Adults only really catch flu about twice a decade, suggests study 

From the release

 

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Adults over the age of 30 only catch flu about twice a decade, a new study suggests.

Flu-like illness can be caused by many pathogens, making it difficult to assess how often people are infected by influenza.

Researchers analysed blood samples from volunteers in Southern China, looking at antibody levels against nine different influenza strains that circulated from 1968 to 2009.

They found that while children get flu on average every other year, flu infections become less frequent as people progress through childhood and early adulthood. From the age of 30 onwards, flu infections tend to occur at a steady rate of about two per decade.

Dr Adam Kucharski, who worked on the study at Imperial College London before moving to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “There’s a lot of debate in the field as to how often people get flu, as opposed to flu-like illness caused by something else. These symptoms could sometimes be caused by common cold viruses, such as rhinovirus or coronavirus. Also, some people might not realise they had flu, but the infection will show up when a blood sample is subsequently tested. This is the first time anyone has reconstructed a group’s history of infection from modern-day blood samples.”

Dr Steven Riley, senior author of the study, from the Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial, said: “For adults, we found that influenza infection is actually much less common than some people think. In childhood and adolescence, it’s much more common, possibly because we mix more with other people. The exact frequency of infection will vary depending on background levels of flu and vaccination.”

In addition to estimating the frequency of flu infection, the researchers, from the UK, the US and China, developed a mathematical model of how our immunity to flu changes over a lifetime as we encounter different strains of the virus.

March 7, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rumor Control – Flu Epidemic: Fact or Fiction

A 19th January post at MedPage Today addresses rumors and “conspiracy theories” about flu epidemic reports.

Responses in a recent survey ranged from blaming Hurricane Sandy (with a government coverup) to profit motivations by BigPharma to vaccine inffectiveness.

The entire article may be read here.

 

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pitt researchers propose new model to design better flu shots

From the 22 December Eureka news alert

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….

Read the entire news article

Related Resources

  • Flu (MedlinePlus) with links to overviews, basic information, health check tools, research articles, and more

    Flu.gov

  • 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

 

December 23, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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