Monday, May 13th, 2013
Women who contract the flu virus during pregnancy may have children who are born with a higher risk of developing a bipolar disorder, a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry has found. More from CBS News:
“These findings may have implications for prevention and identification of pathogenic mechanisms that lead to” bipolar disorder, concluded the researchers, led by Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of clinical psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
Researchers studied a pool of more than 900 U.S. children. More than 200 had been enrolled in the Child Health and Development Study, which tracked kids born between 1950 and 1966. The remaining 700 participants were controls matched by age and gender, obtained from county health databases.
The researchers found 92 cases of bipolar disorder out of the entire participant pool. After combing through data, their analysis revealed having flu during pregnancy was tied to a four-fold risk increase that offspring would develop bipolar disorder by the time they became adults.
The study was published May 8 in JAMA Psychiatry.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by ups and downs that are more extreme than a person typically experiences. It often develops in a person in their late teens or early 20s, though some people may experience symptoms in childhood, notes the National Institute of Mental Health.
Image: Pregnant belly, via Shutterstock
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Monday, March 25th, 2013
The seasonal flu claimed the lives of 105 children, almost none of whom receives their annual flu vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting. That figure is more than triple the usual number of children who die from seasonal flu, according to NBCNews.com:
“We are getting close to the end of the flu season now but it’s not over,” says CDC flu expert Dr. Michael Jhung.
Deaths from flu and pneumonia are “barely” above the annual level designated as “epidemic”, he said. “We get an epidemic of flu every year,” Jhung added in a telephone interview. “It’s just the flu season. We assign the name epidemic to it.”
Officials reported that six children died of flu last week, the CDC said. That brings the total to 105 for this season, compared to 34 last year. But in the 2010-2011 flu season 122 died, and when the H1N1 swine flu pandemic hit in 2009-2010, it killed 282 U.S. children.
Most of the children who died – 90 percent of them – had not been vaccinated against flu.
This may be confusing, as CDC had reported that the flu vaccine was not especially effective in those most at risk from flu – the elderly. But Jhung says it protects children pretty well.
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Friday, February 15th, 2013
Some schools who offer award incentives to students who have perfect attendance are reconsidering their policies amid concerns that it might encourage ambitious students to come to school when they are contagious from the seasonal flu. More from NBC News:
Round Meadow Elementary School gives awards to the handful of students who make it through an entire school year with a perfect attendance record – that means no absences, no tardies, and no early sign-outs. (No exceptions.)
But the school, in Hidden Hills, Calif., may change its policy for the 2013-14 school year, says principal Jeremy Resnick. The flu has hit students and staff hard this year, and he doesn’t want to encourage kids to come to school, or their parents to send them, when they have a potentially contagious disease.
Despite automated phone calls reminding parents that their children should stay home if they have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, “we think there are probably people who are sending their kids to school when they shouldn’t,” he says.
That’s one of the reasons many schools ditched that type of award because of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, says Andrea Vazzana, a child and adolescent psychologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center. And others, like Round Meadow, are reconsidering in light of this year’s flu and norovirus outbreaks.
For now, the award is in place, but Resnick says he tries to keep it low key – a paper certificate and maybe a gift certificate to a local restaurant – so as not to make it too tempting to come to school sick. Fewer than a dozen of the school’s 550-odd students get the award each year, and out of nine elementary schools in the district, Round Meadow is one of the only schools to still have an annual perfect attendence.
Schools are right to be cautious. Like offices, classrooms and hallways are great places for infectious diseases to spread, with close contact between students and plenty of shared surfaces. (Let’s not even talk about the nose-picking and pencil-sucking habits of younger kids.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children stay home from school until their temperatures measure below 100 degrees, without medication, for 24 hours.
Image: Girl wiping her nose, via Shutterstock
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Monday, February 11th, 2013
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data Friday that should give families across the country a bit of encouragement–the number of new cases of seasonal influenza, or flu, decreased in early February in most areas of the U.S. More from CNN.com:
The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Friday, concludes that “influenza activity remained elevated in the United States, but decreased in most areas” in the week of January 27 to February 2, for which the latest information is available.
In the latest report, 38 states reported widespread influenza activity, down from 42 the week before.
Although the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness, 3.6%, is still above the national baseline of 2.2%, it is lower than the previous week’s estimate of 4.2%.
The disease is still claiming lives, however.
“The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was above the epidemic threshold,” the report said.
The number of pediatric deaths from influenza rose by 14, for a total of 59 this season. While that is more than the 34 pediatric deaths for all of last year’s season, it is much lower than the 153 pediatric deaths in the 2003 to 2004 season, which saw a similar H3N2 virus responsible for a lot of illness, for example. Adult deaths due to flu are not tracked by the CDC.
Image: Girl blowing nose, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
The percentage of Americans who have received flu vaccines is roughly the same as it was last year, despite an early and intense beginning to the 2012-2013 flu season that had many rushing out to get vaccinated before they got infected. The New York Times has more:
There is a rush on now to get a flu vaccine, but figures published last month for this season — the latest available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — suggested that most people would again take their chances and go through the flu season without a vaccination.
The C.D.C. uses two sources to estimate what it calls “uptake”: the National Immunization Survey, which is a telephone survey of households with children, and the National Internet Flu Survey, which collects vaccination-related data by age, race and ethnicity.
The number, about the same as it was at the same time in 2011, was not encouraging. As of mid-November, only 36.5 percent of people older than 6 months had been vaccinated.
Pregnant women, children, and anyone with compromised immune systems are especially urged to get vaccinated.
Image: Flu shots, via Shutterstock
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