Recent News

Flu season shows signs of leveling off in U.S.; peaks in Colorado

Feb 17 2018

This nasty flu season, which has been worsening for months, might finally be leveling off. Health officials on Friday said about one of every 13 visits to the doctor last week was for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That's no reason for health officials to celebrate yet: That level is among the highest in a decade. But it's no worse than last week, and flu activity had been increasing each week since November.

Source: Fox 31 Denver Fox 31 Denver

This season's flu vaccine is only 36 percent effective, but experts say you should still get it

Feb 15 2018

This season’s flu vaccine offers limited protection against the viruses sweeping the country, with its overall effectiveness of 36 percent falling to 25 percent against the most virulent and predominant strain, according to a government report released Thursday. The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the vaccine’s midseason effectiveness confirms what federal health officials and infectious-disease experts have suspected for some time. In unrelentingly bad flu seasons such as the current one, which is dominated by the most dreaded flu strain, vaccines are less effective. That's because that strain, the influenza A virus known as H3N2, can change more rapidly than any other flu viruses transmitted among humans, allowing it to evade the body’s immune system. Still, experts said the current vaccine offers some protection against H3N2. Its 25 percent effectiveness rate means that one in four people who get the shot reduce their risk of becoming sick enough to need to see a doctor. In Australia, interim estimates showed the vaccine to be only 10 percent effective against H3N2, and researchers recently reported that early data show that the vaccine is about 17 percent effective in Canada against that strain. The vaccine's effectiveness may have changed as it is measured at the end of the season.

Source: The Washington Post The Washington Post

Here's Why It's So Hard To Make A Better Flu Vaccine

Feb 15 2018

Imagine you work in a high-security building. It uses facial recognition technology to keep out known intruders. It works well, until someone figures out how to use clever makeup, or even just grow a moustache to game the cameras. No matter how often the intruders are caught, new infiltrators find new disguises to help them get in. That’s a little bit how the immune system works, and the flu virus is gaming that recognition technology. It sneaks past the body’s immune system to cause misery and mayhem, even as new vaccines update the biological equivalent of facial recognition software. Each year, a new influenza vaccine is formulated and distributed, and each year, viruses develop ways to evade them. Flu vaccines are never as effective as other vaccines, and the current vaccine only provides partial protection against the ongoing flu epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to release preliminary data on Thursday about how well the vaccine has been working this year. It doesn’t look good. A Canadian study showed only about 17 percent protection against H3N2, the most common strain this year, and 50 to 60 percent protection against the H1N1 and influenza B strains.

Source: NBC News NBC News

Should Kids Be Required To Get The HPV Vaccine?

Feb 13 2018

Florida isn't kidding about low human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates. If you are a kid enrolled in a Florida public school, come July 1, 2018, you may be required to get the HPV vaccine. That is if you are old enough and if a bill now being debated in the Florida state legislature ends up passing. If it gets through, Senate Bill 1558 would then become known as the "Women's Cancer Prevention Act", which is a much easier name to remember and also reflects some major benefits of the HPV vaccine. As the National Cancer Institute explains, HPV vaccine can help prevent not only cervical cancer but also many vaginal and vulvar cancers. In fact, two types of HPV (16 and 18) cause around 70% of cervical cancers. But just because you don't have a vagina, cervix, and vulva doesn't mean that you are in the clear. HPV is responsible for about 95% of anal cancers, 70% of oropharyngeal (the middle part of the throat) cancers, and 35% of penile cancers. Thus, the "Women's Cancer Prevention Act" is really a "Cancer Prevention Act."

Source: Forbes Forbes

Fact or myth? 9 things to know this flu season

Feb 12 2018

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, more than 3,000 people in Colorado have been hospitalized for the flu as we enter the 11th week of this intense flu season. Unfortunately, it won’t end any time soon. 9NEWS Medical Expert Dr. Comilla Sasson says we can expect it to continue for six to 10 more weeks. A lot of questions and false information regarding the widespread flu activity and sicknesses in general are floating around, so Dr. Comilla stepped in to help set things straight.

Source: 9 News 9 News

What Have We Learned About Influenza Deaths in Children and How Can We Do Better?

Feb 12 2018

Bhat et al reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that there were 153 influenza-associated deaths among children in the United States during the 2003–2004 influenza season, a somber reminder of the impact of influenza on children. Nearly half of the children that died had no underlying medical conditions and the highest mortality rates were seen in the youngest children. The conclusions of that paper were that “high priority should be given to improvements in influenza-vaccine coverage and improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of influenza to reduce childhood mortality from influenza.” Since this initial report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have continued to periodically report their findings from the passive “Influenza-Associated Pediatric Mortality Surveillance System.”2–4 More than a decade later, 6 additional influenza seasons are characterized in this issue of Pediatrics, with nearly identical findings.5 On average each year in the United States, >100 children die of laboratory-confirmed influenza. Nearly 50% of these fatalities are in children who were previously healthy with no underlying medical conditions, the mortality remains the highest in the youngest children, and those that died are most often unvaccinated.

Source: AAP News

The Flu is Killing Up to 4,000 Americans a Week

Feb 10 2018

The amount of influenza ravaging the U.S. this year rivals levels normally seen when an altogether new virus emerges, decimating a vulnerable population that hasn’t had a chance to develop any defenses. It’s an unexpected phenomenon that public health experts are still trying to decode. The levels of influenza-like illnesses being reported now are as high as the peak of the swine flu epidemic in 2009, and exceed the last severe seasonal flu outbreak in 2003 when a new strain started circulating, said Anne Schuchat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s acting director. Swine flu, which swept the globe in 2009 and 2010, sickened 60.8 million Americans, hospitalized 274,304 and killed 12,469, according to CDC data. Deaths from the current outbreak will likely far outstrip those of the 2009-2010 season.

Source: Fortune Fortune

3 things parents should know about flu: Some facts to soothe the panic

Feb 10 2018

We haven’t yet hit peak flu season, but we seem to be approaching peak flu panic. Flu cases have been climbing for more than two straight months, and hospitalizations for flu have already reached a record high since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started using their current tracking system in 2010. The news that 63 kids have reportedly died so far this season from flu has been especially terrifying for parents across the country — and for good reason. This is shaping up to be a very bad flu year. But more than ever, we need to put some of the facts into context. The pediatric death rate so far is “terrifying — but it’s looking normal,” said Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. By that, she means that during a typical flu season, pediatric deaths can range from 37 to 171, according to the CDC. While the death rate may climb this year, it’s not above average yet. And this season is not nearly as deadly as the 2009 swine flu pandemic — an outlier that saw 358 pediatric deaths. Another scary statistic circulating in the media is that one in 10 people who have died in the US during the past week died from flu or pneumonia. While true, it doesn’t mean that people are dying from flu at an exceptionally high rate. “Influenza deaths are not very, very high compared to previous years,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the CDC, told reporters on Friday.

Source: Vox Vox