Stories tagged flu

Oct
16
2012

Flu shot: A new study shows that flu shots are effective, at best, up to 59 percent of the time. Researchers are encouraging drug companies to develop new and better flu shots for the future.
Flu shot: A new study shows that flu shots are effective, at best, up to 59 percent of the time. Researchers are encouraging drug companies to develop new and better flu shots for the future.Courtesy r Joseph R Schmitt
Hey, I got my flu shot last week. It's been about 10 years now I've been able to get a free flu shot covered by my health insurance plan. And I'm happy to say I've never had the flu in all that time.

That, of course, is all anecdotal evidence. But some researchers at the University of Minnesota have been studying the issue of flu shots and have some new ideas on the matter. Based on their findings, they're encouraging new research to find a "game-changer" new vaccine to make flu shots more effective.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the U released its findings yesterday. And overall, they found that flu shots had, at best, a 59 percent effectiveness rate for adults ages 18 to 64. Effectiveness rates for flu shots for people younger and older than that age group were inconsistent. The nasal-spray vaccine was found to have an efficacy of 83 percent in children ages 6 months to 7 years.

Vaccine manufacturers haven't made any significant changes to flu vaccine formulas for many years, mostly based on the idea that the flu shots were highly effective. But the new report challenges that theory and encourages new research to find different approaches to flu vaccines, with those new approaches aiming to have a higher rate of prevention.

In the meantime, the researchers are still encouraging people to get a flu shot this season. Some protection is better than no protection, they point out. And they also said that their findings showed no reason to believe that flu shots cause any harm to people who receive them.

What do you think? Are you getting a flu shot this year? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

The hype of H1N1 flu has run its course. News reports say that 40 million doses of unused vaccine (valued at $260 million) have been destroyed and that the flu impacted much fewer people than the regular seasonal flu. And there are millions more doses of the vaccine are set to expire at the end of this month. What just happened?

Mar
20
2010

Vitamin D supplement study in children reduced catching flu almost in half

Vitamin D: Calcitriol is the active form of vitamin D found in the body.
Vitamin D: Calcitriol is the active form of vitamin D found in the body.Courtesy JaGa

Last week I blogged about why Vitamin D is needed for health.

This week I came across another study showing that Vitamin D is a flu fighter. The study has just been published online, ahead of print, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In the study children were asked to swallow six pills a day (25% dropped out). Half of the children's pills were placebos (fake). The pill givers did not know which pills were fake (double blind).

Incidence of influenza A was 10.8 percent among the 167 kids who received vitamin D pills. That's in contrast to a flu rate of 18.6 percent among an equal number of children getting identical looking inert pills. Doctors monitoring the trial confirmed flu cases using a test to assay for the influenza-A germ.

Vitamin D group had fewer asthma attacks

The study also noted that two asthma attacks occurred during the trial among kids getting the vitamin, compared to 12 in the unsupplemented group. The study doesn’t say whether the same number of kids with a history of asthma were in each group so this result may not be valid.

Better protection after 3 months of Vitamin D

The researchers also stated that it may take almost three months “to reach a steady state of vitamin D concentrations by supplementation". I interpret this to mean that takes our bodies about 90 days to accumulate an effective Vitamin D concentration (less illness after 3 months of taking vitamin D than during initial 3 months).

Jan
04
2010

Chicken soup
Chicken soupCourtesy Mullenedheim
I am frugal and am careful when spending money. I remember a businessman telling me there was lots of money to be made in soap and food supplements. They both end up "going down the drain".
Billions of dollars are spent every year on vitamins, medicines and doctor visits. Are there scientific studies that verify how effective various remedies are in our battle against the common cold or flu?

Learn what science says about cold or flu remedies

I think most people accept that adequate rest, water, exercise, hand washing are fully supported by science. What does the scientific literature say about doctor's visits, antibiotics, vitamin C, echinacea and zinc, cough medicine, "Airborne", or chicken soup. I recommend you read the Patient Money column in the Jan 1, 2010 New York Times. Here are just a few tidbits from the article.

Officials in Cardiff confirmed today the world's first cases of human-to-human transmission of Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 influenza. It's not unexpected, but it is worrisome. Even though flu cases are down here in Minnesota and across the US, keep washing your hands!

Feeling under the weather and not quite sure if you have H1N1 flu? Here's an online survey you can take to see if you need to get things checked out by a medical professional. Want to pass the URL along to others? It's http://www.h1n1responsecenter.com

Sep
27
2009

H1N1 vaccination
H1N1 vaccinationCourtesy AJC1

How do I know it is safe?

"The recurring question is, 'How do we know it's safe?'" said Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic. What if, after getting a flu shot, a person goes home. then suddenly has a heart attack. Was the heart attack a side effect of the flu shot?

More than 3,000 people a day have a heart attack. This happens when no flu shots are given. When no flu shots are given, from 14,000 to 19,000 miscarriages happen every week.
When we start giving flu shots to 100s of millions of people, how do we differentiate side effects caused by the vaccination, from what would have happened even without the vaccination?

Intensive monitoring of side effects planned

This year there will be intense new monitoring.

Harvard Medical School scientists are linking large insurance databases that cover up to 50 million people with vaccination registries around the country for real-time checks of whether people see a doctor in the weeks after a flu shot and why. The huge numbers make it possible to quickly compare rates of complaints among the vaccinated and unvaccinated, said the project leader, Dr. Richard Platt, Harvard's population medicine chief.

Johns Hopkins University will direct e-mails to at least 100,000 vaccine recipients to track how they're feeling, including the smaller complaints that wouldn't prompt a doctor visit. If anything seems connected, researchers can call to follow up with detailed questions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing take-home cards that tell vaccine recipients how to report any suspected side effects to the nation's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system.

However the flu season turns out, the extra vaccine tracking promises a lasting impact.

"Part of what we hope is that it will teach us something about how to monitor the safety of all medical products quickly," said Harvard's Platt.

Source: Associated Press

From the helpful folks at the Star Tribune.

How much do you really know about the new H1N1 flu? CNN's testing your knowledge about the virus. Answer these 10 questions and see how you do.

Sep
19
2009

FluMist inhaler for H1N1 flu
FluMist inhaler for H1N1 fluCourtesy garrisonpao

Vaccine for swine flu is ahead of expectations

October is almost here, and so are more than 3 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine. The vaccine is a the FluMist nasal spray type which is inhaled rather than injected. The nasal spray contains a weakened live virus, while injections contain killed and fragmented virus. The inhalation method gives a stronger immune reaction and is not recommended for pregnant women, people over 50 or those with asthma, heart disease or several other problems. The earlier than expected delivery will be be great for people in other high-risk groups though (health care workers, people caring for infants, and healthy young people).

Any type of flu can be deadly

In the United States a typical flu season is believed to kill about 36,000. The Asian flu of 1957 was blamed for the deaths of about 70,000 Americans. The pandemic H1N1 or 2009 H1N1 flu (we are not supposed to call it the swine flu) so far has not been bad. Flu activity is now “widespread” in 21 states, up from 11 a week ago. (Read more here - New York Times)

2009 H1N1 flu vaccine approved

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Sept. 15 that it has approved four vaccines against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. The vaccines will be distributed nationally after the initial lots become available, which is expected within the next four weeks.
As with any medical product, unexpected or rare serious adverse events may occur. The FDA is working closely with governmental and nongovernmental organizations to enhance the capacity for adverse event monitoring, information sharing and analysis during and after the 2009 H1N1 vaccination program." FDA News Release