Stories tagged CDC

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.


Pandemic prevention in Mexico City
Pandemic prevention in Mexico CityCourtesy Chupacabras

No mass at Cathedral of Mexico City Sunday

In addition to churches, Mexico closed schools, museums, libraries and theaters, hoping to contain the outbreak of a swine flu variety that is killing people. Officials say as many as 81 people have died and more than 1,300 others are sickened from a new type of flu.

The virus contains genetic pieces from four different flu viruses; North American swine influenza, North American avian influenza, human influenza A N1H1, and swine influenza viruses found in Asia and Europe.

Swine flu symptoms

Symptoms of the flu-like illness include a fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius), body aches, coughing, a sore throat, respiratory congestion and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea. Click this link for more key facts about swine influenza (swine flu).

Global swine flu alert

China, Russia and Taiwan plan to put anyone with symptoms of the deadly virus under quarantine. Ten students from New Zealand who took a school trip to Mexico "likely" caught this swine flu. Four possible cases of swine flu are currently under investigation in France. More than 100 students at the St. Francis Preparatory School, in Queens, New York recently began suffering a fever, sore throat and aches and pains. Some of them had recently been in Mexico.

"The United States government is working with the World Health Organization and other international partners to assure early detection and warning and to respond as rapidly as possible to this threat," Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the CDC, said during a Friday afternoon press briefing.

How to track illnesses globally

There are several useful online resources that track health information and disease outbreaks.

  1. The World Health Organization (WHO) has an Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR) webpage.

    As of 26 April 2009, the United States Government has reported 20 laboratory confirmed human cases of swine influenza A/H1N1 (8 in New York, 7 in California, 2 in Texas, 2 in Kansas and 1 in Ohio).

  2. HealthMap is a website that aggregates news feeds from the WHO, Google News, ProMED, and elsewhere to map out all of the disease outbreaks. (Click the box in front of influenza under "Diseases, last 30 days" to see just flu cases.)

What is a pandemic?

The WHO's pandemic alert level is currently up to phase 3. The organization said the level could be raised to phase 4 if the virus shows sustained ability to pass from human to human. Phase 5 would be reached if the virus is found in at least two countries in the same region.

"The declaration of phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short," WHO said. Associated Press

Phase 6 would indicate a full-scale global pandemic.



We're back in business here at the Science Museum (although the building is still closed to the public until next Friday), just in time to report some good news.

Ouch: Taking one for the team?
Ouch: Taking one for the team?Courtesy Spamily

The CDC reported yesterday that 77.4% of US children between the ages of 19 months and three years received all their recommended vaccinations in 2007. That's a slight improvement over the 2006 statistic. There are big regional variations in coverage, and children living below the poverty line are slightly less likely to be fully vaccinated, but overall less than 1% of US kids received no immunizations at all.

What are the recommended shots?

  • Four or more doses of diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and any acellular pertussis vaccine, or DTaP
  • Three or more doses of polio vaccine
  • At least one dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • At least three doses of Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine
  • At least three doses of hepatitis B vaccine
  • At least one dose of varicella vaccine

Some folks don't vaccinate their kids--particularly against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)--because they worry that the vaccine is linked to autism. That theory has been debunked many times, in many countries, but it persists. On Wednesday, researchers from Columbia University and the CDC offered up another study showing zero causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism (or gastrointestinal problems.) So kids, roll up your sleeves at those back-to-school physicals and get your shots. It sucks, but it beats getting measles.

On the other hand, evidence is mounting to show that flu shots don't work well to protect people over 70. Older people have a lesser immune response to the vaccine and don't develop as much immunity. But the very old and the very young also account for the highest number of flu deaths. So what to do? According to the NT Times article:

"Dr. Simonsen, the epidemiologist at George Washington, said the new research made common-sense infection-control measures — like avoiding other sick people and frequent hand washing — more important than ever. Still, she added, “The vaccine is still important. Thirty percent protection is better than zero percent.”

Another way to protect the elderly is to vaccinate preschoolers. Not only are they likely to pick up the flu before other members of the family, but there's some evidence that preschoolers are actually the drivers of annual influenza outbreaks. Stop the flu in young kids, and you might just stop it for everyone else, too.


Game pieces: Bungee cords, along with dog leashes or other restrictive straps, are the tools used for playing "the choking game," which has led to 82 confirmed deaths in the U.S. since 1995.
Game pieces: Bungee cords, along with dog leashes or other restrictive straps, are the tools used for playing "the choking game," which has led to 82 confirmed deaths in the U.S. since 1995.Courtesy wikipedia
I can tell I’ve passed that certain age where I know what all the latest fads are. Before reading this news item, I never knew of any such thing as “the choking game.”

Bu the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a rare alert this week that 82 teens and preteens in the U.S. have died from medical complications from playing “the choking game.” The deaths are on record for the time period between 1995 and 2007.

The game is simply what the name implies. Kids use dog leashes, bungee cords or other tightening straps to cut off the blood flow in the neck to the head of a game participant. When the blood flow is restored, the “chokee” can experience a euphoric rush similar to floating in air.

In most of the fatal situations included in the report, the player was doing the game alone, the CDC also reported. But it strikes me that this is not a very good idea for anyone to be trying whether they have other people with them or not.

The age range of the victims was 6 to 19. In further analysis of the numbers, the CDC said that the deaths were spread across 31 states; nearly 90 percent were boys; the average age was about 13.

Here’s what really caught me by surprise. Some small-scale surveys report that up to 20 percent of the young adult population has played “the choking game.” That’s one out of five kids. If those numbers are solid, that means it’s very likely some of the young people you or I know have tried this activity.

Along with sharing these numbers, the CDC added some warning signs for parents to be on the lookout for if their kids have been taking part in “the choking game.” They include:

• Bloodshot eyes
• Marks on the neck
• Frequent and severe headaches
• Disorientation after spending time alone
• Ropes, scarves or belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor

The CDC also estimates that these numbers could be significantly low, and that many “choking game” deaths are reported as suicides or accidental strangulations. One projection figures that there could be up to 100 choking game deaths a year.

Here's a link to the online version of the CDC report if you want the full details.

So are you like me, shocked to learn that there can be such a dangerous activity taking place in our kids’ social time? What, if anything should be done to address this? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.


Hold the fries: Fewer school lunch programs are offering unhealthy foods, like French fries, a recent government survey as discovered. It's important since child obesity rates have spiked up in recent years. (Flickr photo by limonada)
Hold the fries: Fewer school lunch programs are offering unhealthy foods, like French fries, a recent government survey as discovered. It's important since child obesity rates have spiked up in recent years. (Flickr photo by limonada)
I have to admit that I’ve been out of the school lunch loop for quite some time now. And I seem to recall that it wasn’t too long ago that many schools, faced with school lunch budgets that were feeling the squeeze, were turning toward more fast-food type menus to try to encourage participation and sales.

But a new study out last week says that schools are making a big move toward healthier meals for school kids who are increasingly dealing with overweight issues.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported that last year, about 19 percent of school cafeterias were serving French fries, down from about the 40 percent serving them six years earlier.

Another gauge of healthier school food items: the same survey showed that high-fat baked goods were becoming more rare at school fundraisers, declining to 54 percent of the offerings last year compared to 67 percent six years earlier.

One more sign of healthier times: about half of schools today offer bottled water instead of sugary sodas or sports drinks at vending machines or snack bars. Only about a third of schools had bottled water available six years ago.

Latest statistics show that about one-third of the kids in the U.S. are overweight and 17 percent are considered obese.

Here’s the study stat that I found really hard to believe: about one-third of schools in the country still allow tobacco use on campus and at school events by adults. That’s an improvement from six years ago, when about half of schools in the country had smoking bans. In Minnesota, schools have banned smoking on their grounds for a much longer time than that, I believe. Public health officials still have a goal of having a total smoking ban on school grounds.


Brain-eating buggers: Shown here are 1000 times magnification, Naegleria fowleri amoebas are embedded in and eating away at brain tissue. Six people in the U.S. this year have been died from having the amoebas get into their heads.
Brain-eating buggers: Shown here are 1000 times magnification, Naegleria fowleri amoebas are embedded in and eating away at brain tissue. Six people in the U.S. this year have been died from having the amoebas get into their heads.
This sounds like it could be the story arc for the movie Halloween 18, but it’s a real situation that has become a living nightmare for a handful of families living in the southern U.S.

Six people have died this season after encounters with Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic amoeba. Here’s the real horror movie part of the story, the deadly amoebas get sucked up the nose of the victim, work their way into the brain and feed on brain tissue until the host dies.

This year’s six reported deaths is a huge spike in cases that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have monitored. From 1995 to 2004, there were 23 people killed by the condition in the U.S. This year’s cases include three in Florida, two in Texas and one in Arizona. Naegleria fowleri was discovered in Australia in the 1960, and worldwide, there have only been a few hundred cases reported.

In Arizona, a 14-year-old boy had been swimming in Lake Havasu prior to developing headaches. They persisted for days, and no remedies were found even after going to the hospital, where the boy died nine days after swimming.

The deadly amoebas like warm water and live in lakes, warm springs and even swimming pools. A common pattern to exposure has people wading through the warm waters, stirring up the bottoms where the amoebas live and then getting some of that amoeba-infested water up their nose. Swimming or diving into that water could also provide exposure to the amoebas.

To make matters worse, there isn’t any clinical treatment for the condition. While several drugs have killed Naegleria in the lab, they’ve been ineffective when used to treat humans. Most cases involving humans have resulted in death.

Local government agencies in the areas where people have died are organizing education campaign in their communities about the condition. A fact sheet on Naegleria folweri is also available on the CDC website.


The CDC has more than 100 million doses of this year's flu vaccine available--enough so that anyone who wants one can get one. (Doctors and clinics will start receiving the vaccine next month.)

Last year 86 million doses were available, but 4.8 million went unused. Yet 200 million Americans are either considered high risk themselves or have close contact with someone at high risk and should consider getting the shot.

People on the CDC's priority list include:

  • Health care providers,
  • Children between 6 months and 5 years old,
  • People with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease,
  • And people older than 50.

It's best to get vaccinated in October or November so there's time for immunity to develop before the flu season hits. But numbers of influenza cases usually peak in February, so even a late shot offers some protection.

Every year somewhere between 5 and 20% of the US population catches influenza. 200,000 of them need hospital care, and 36,000 die.

So...will you be getting a flu shot this year? Vote in our poll, and tell us why or why not.


Today the CDC announced its new recommendation that all Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 be routinely checked for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Why the change? About one million Americans are infected with HIV, but 25% of them have no idea that they're carrying the virus. Routine testing should help check the spread of the disease and preserve health as infections are caught earlier.

The CDC's recommendation isn't binding, but it does influence what doctors do and what health insurance covers. And the blanket recommendation might help reduce the stigma associated with HIV testing.

What do you think? Will you get screened for HIV at your next physical? Why or why not?

On June 5, 1981, Dr. Michael Gottlieb briefly described the disease we now know as AIDS in the newsletter of the Centers for Disease Control. This was the first notice published on the disease. Gottlieb was a pioneer in pursuing and studying immune deficiency cases, publishing his results, and testing drugs like AZT.


Life expectancy in the US hit a new high on Monday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the average American now lives 77.6 years. This is the highest figure ever recorded.

The mortality rate for the two biggest killers—cancer and heart disease—both fell. On average, women still live longer than men, though the gaps is shrinking. And, for reasons that are not explained, people in Hawaii live the longest. Must be all the surfing.