Stories tagged influenza

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.

Aug
21
2012

Am I a flu risk?: A new strain of pig-borne flu virus my just shut down the doors to the public of the Minnesota State Fair swine barn this summer.
Am I a flu risk?: A new strain of pig-borne flu virus my just shut down the doors to the public of the Minnesota State Fair swine barn this summer.Courtesy wattpublishing
I don’t know if you are following the recent news about a new flu strain or not but it looks like the strain (H3N2v) is now in MN. Pigs can spread this virus to other pigs and humans through airborne droplets (coughs and sneezes). If you are a meat eater, don’t worry you can’t catch it by eating pork.

Will you be visiting the pig barns at the Minnesota State fair this year?

Background:
One case of the new swine flu (H3N2v) has been confirmed in MN. For information about this new strain see the fact sheet posted at flu.gov . I’ve heard 3 different reports on how concerned we should be about the situation:

  • MN Department of Health
  • – feel free to visit the swine barn unless you are in a high-risk group (Children under five and people age 65 and older, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or neurological problems). Remember don’t bring food in the barn (I’m always amazed when I see people eating in the barns at the fair, but this is due to food borne illness not the flu), and wash your hands after visiting the barns.

  • MN State Fair
  • – It is safe to visit the barns and fair officials have been taking extra precautions.

  • Dr. Mike Osterholm
  • , Director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) commented on MN public radio that he feels pigs should not be allowed at the fair – there is too much risk. The CIDRAP website has a summary of the situation as well.

    Do you think Dr. Osterholm is being alarmist or is the threat real? Will you be visiting the swine barn at the fair? What questions do you have about the situation? Do you need more information? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Yet... this images suggests that swine and gel can live in harmony.
Yet... this images suggests that swine and gel can live in harmony.Courtesy Ollie Crafoord
Duh, right? I mean, of course swine conquers gel. We've all known that since we were kids; rock breaks scissors, scissors cuts paper, paper wraps swine, swine beats gel, gel covers rock. We all know the rules of the game.

But now there's additional research to prove that swine beats gel.

A recent study found that disinfectant hand gels, with "enhanced antiviral activity" (say what?), didn't significantly reduce infection rates of rhinovirus (the cold) or A/H1N1 (swine flu) in the test group over a period of two and a half months.

Infection rates were reduced somewhat, but not to the expected extent. (Out of 100 person groups of regular hand sanitizers and non-hand sanitizers, 42 sanitizers got the cold and 12 got swine flu, compared to 52 and 15, respectively, infected in the control group.)

However, it's not necessarily the case that viruses are simply body-slamming antimicrobials in the octagon cage of your hands. The results suggest that aerosol transmission of the viruses might be more significant than hand-to-hand transmission—those sneaky swine flu viruses might be bypassing the gel altogether by, that's right, flying.

Perhaps we have to take anti-infection measures to the next level.

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!

Oct
20
2009

The first 2009 H1N1 vaccines are starting to arrive in Minnesota. So I'm wondering, will you be vaccinated? How about your kids? A national study out of the University of Michigan says only 40% of parents plan to get their kids vaccinated. Why? I think Michael Specter sums it up best in a New Yorker article:

In fact, the new H1N1 virus is similar to seasonal flu in its severity. In the United States, influenza regularly ranks among the ten leading causes of death, infecting up to twenty per cent of the population. It kills roughly thirty-five thousand Americans every year and sends hundreds of thousands to the hospital. Even relatively mild pandemics, like those of 1957 and 1968, have been health-care disasters: the first killed two million people and the second a million.

We are more fortunate than our predecessors, though. Scientists produced a vaccine rapidly; it will be available within weeks. And, though this H1N1 virus is novel, the vaccine is not. It was made and tested in exactly the same way that flu vaccines are always made and tested. Had this strain of flu emerged just a few months earlier, there would not have been any need for two vaccines this year; 2009 H1N1 would simply have been included as one of the components in the annual vaccine.

Meanwhile, the virus has now appeared in a hundred and ninety-one countries. It has killed almost four thousand people and infected millions of others. The risks are clear and so are the facts. But, while scientists and public-health officials have dealt effectively with the disease, they increasingly confront a different kind of contagion: the spurious alarms spread by those who would make us fear vaccines more than the illnesses they prevent.

I'm planning on getting the vaccine if I can and I'll make sure my kids get the vaccine. It is all about the risk vs. benefit for me. What are your plans and why?

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
04
2009

Flu sends 4-H'ers home early

State Fair 4H campers plagued by H1N1 flu
State Fair 4H campers plagued by H1N1 fluCourtesy the_dharma_bum
I have fond memories of staying overnight at the State Fair. I can imagine the disappointment of being told to go home early after looking forward to performing at the State Fair for months.

Four confirmed cases of H1N1 flu

Earlier this week sick kids were being sent home but after it was confirmed that four students had been diagnosed with the swine flu, officials sent more than 100 4-Hers home.

"When we met the girls this morning, they were in tears," said BayBridge, who lives across the border in Big Stone City, S.D., and whose kids participate in the 4-H club in Ortonville, Minn. "They look forward to this all year long. But in a case like this, you have to do what you need to do." StarTribune.com

Incoming 4-H students allowed in

About 400 new 4-H students were expected to move into the dorm Thursday after workers sanitized surfaces. Jerry Hammer, the fair's general manager, said he considers the fair to still be "perfectly safe."

"It's as safe as going to any store or the Mall of America or even your neighborhood park," he said. "Follow the advice of the experts: wash your hands well, cover your coughs, use common sense. If you don't feel good, stay home."

First H1N1 Death in Minnesota.

by Anonymous on Jun. 16th, 2009

The first death in Minnesota of the H1N1 or also known as the Swine Flu. The five year old girl died on June 15, 2009. The very young girl did have multiple medical conditions before becoming ill.
To find more on this go to this link.
http://kstp.com/news/stories/S979151.shtml?cat=206

The WHO has raised the swine flu pandemic alert to the highest level. (A/H1N1 is the first flu pandemic in 41 years.) This doesn't mean the disease is more dangerous, just that it's in more places and continuing to spread. As of this morning, 28,774 confirmed A/H1N1 cases have been reported in 74 countries, with 144 deaths. (These counts are not precise anymore, however, because many people who catch this flu are recovering at home without being tested.)

Watch/listen to the press conference

Map of the outbreak

BBC coverage

May
31
2009

Vaccine production
Vaccine productionCourtesy AJC1

US pays billion dollars for developing new flu vaccine

The latest information from Pandemicflu.gov explains the next steps toward an H1N1 influenza vaccine.

BARDA

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is part of the Dept. on HHS, has an official "fact sheet" explaining 2009 H1N1 Vaccine Development Activities.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is directing nearly $1.1 billion in existing preparedness funds to manufacture two important parts of a vaccine for the Strategic National Stockpile, to produce small amounts of potential vaccine for research, and to perform clinical research over the summer. HHS press release

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by tricking the immune system into thinking it has been infected with the H1N1 swine flu virus so that it creates antibodies against it. The vaccine is a hybrid of the virus which is similar enough that our immune system will develop antibodies against a specific virus.

How is swine flu vaccine made?

We are now starting step 4.

  1. obtain typical sample of novel H1N1 virus
  2. reproduce sample in eggs
  3. Mix H1N1 and PR8 viruses into eggs and allowing a hybrid strain to be created through a natural re-assortment of their genes
  4. Multiply seed virus into millions of doses
  5. test virus in people to determine the most effective and safest dose to generate a strong immune response to the 2009-H1N1 virus
  6. decide whether to use adjuvants
  7. mass produce vaccine

What is an adjuvant?

An adjuvant is an additive to a vaccine that helps to generate a stronger immune response to the vaccine. When using an adjuvant it is often possible to reduce the size of the vaccine dose and the number of doses needed. Special permission from the Food and Drug Administration will be needed for the adjuvants to be used, as neither one is currently approved for use in this country. Washington Post

Can vaccines be made without using eggs?

"The federal government has given the vaccine industry $1.3 billion to spur a shift from growing the viruses in eggs to growing them in stainless steel tanks containing mammalian cells.

Such cell culture could shave a few weeks off the process, experts estimate, and would eliminate the need for millions of eggs on short notice. Some vaccines made in cells have been approved in Europe but not in the United States." New York Times

Learn more about making swine flu vaccine

How to make a swine flu vaccine BBC
CDC May 28 Press Briefing transcript
Flu vaccine development questions and answers BARDA