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
Add a Comment
Thursday, January 10th, 2013
This season’s outbreak of influenza, or flu, is raging across the country, taking kids out of school and parents out of work at levels that dwarf last year’s flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than half of the country’s states have reported widespread infection levels, flu has hospitalized more than 2,200 people across the country, and 18 children have died as a result of infection. It is not too late, CDC officials say, for people to get–and be protected by–the flu vaccine.
More from CNN:
Why so many cases?
Zich theorizes that one reason there are so many flu cases is that the heart of the flu season coincided with the December holiday season, meaning many people were already sleep-deprived from parties and were more likely to get sick.
Those who went to gatherings of family or friends may have already begun to feel sick, and spread the virus to others. People are generally contagious the day before symptoms start, and for five days after becoming sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last flu season was light, but this year has brought with it some “ominous signs,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.
Flu cases started going up early, toward the end of November and the beginning of December, he said.
“And it went up on a pretty steep trajectory,” he said. “The last time we saw that happen that way was the flu season of 2003 and 2004, which turned out to be a bad flu season.”
The type of flu that is going around is called H3N2, which is often linked to more serious disease compared to other flu varieties, Fauci said.
But there’s good news: That type of flu matches up well to the vaccine that is being distributed and given out throughout the United States.
People may get more complications from this particular strain of H3N2, “which may make them ill for a longer period of time,” Dr. Michael Jhung, medical epidemiologist in the influenza division at CDC, told CNN’s Mary Snow.
“But symptoms typically last up to seven days for a normal infection, a noncomplicated infection with influenza,” he said. “And we usually see that from year to year regardless of what strains are circulating.”
The CDC says it will release updated information on Friday. Meanwhile, it offers these tips to prevent the spread of seasonal flu:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Image: Flu-stricken woman, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, November 13th, 2012
A new study in the journal Pediatrics has found that women who had the flu or prolonged fever during pregnancy were twice as likely to have an autistic child than those who did not.
The researchers involved in the study wrote: “We found almost a twofold increased risk of infantile autism in the child after self-reported infection with influenza virus during pregnancy,” which suggests that the mother’s immune response may affect a child’s developing brain. However, women who reported other infections during pregnancy, such as a cold or UTI, were not any more likely to have a child with autism. Health officials said the finding reinforces their recommendations that pregnant women should get flu shots, which will protect the mother and baby for the first six months after birth.
Additionally, researchers found that women who had a fever lasting a week or longer—either caused by the flu or unrelated to the flu—were three times as likely to give birth to a child with autism, which supports findings from a recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
“It is important to bear in mind that when you look at the absolute numbers, we see that around 99 percent of women reporting to have had influenza or fever during pregnancy, do not have children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder),” researcher Dr. Hjördis Ósk Atladóttir of the University of Aarhus in Denmark told NBC. “We want to reassure women. In this study, most women who experienced flu or prolonged fever or who were taking antibiotics did not have children with an autism spectrum disorder,” asserted Boyle.
Image: Sick pregnant woman via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Thursday, August 30th, 2012
New research adds to the evidence that flu shots are safe for pregnant women, finding that they do not increase the risk of birth defects, Reuters reports.
Scientists studied 9,000 pregnant women who received the flu shot and found that the rate of birth defects in their babies was 2 percent, identical to the rate among 77,000 pregnant women who were not vaccinated. The study was published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Interestingly, women who received a flu shot were less likely to suffer a stillbirth. It’s not clear why, but lead researcher Jeanne Sheffield of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center suspects the vaccine might help by preventing severe cases of flu.
Despite recommendations to get the flu shot, most pregnant women do not. In the U.S., only between 10 percent and one-quarter of women have been vaccinated each flu season over the last couple decades, Sheffield’s team notes.
Based on studies, that seems largely due to safety worries.
On the other hand, Sheffield said “it’s amazing” how many women are unaware that the flu itself is considered a risk during pregnancy.
“The flu is a problem in pregnancy,” she said. “But we have a vaccine to prevent it. And it’s considered safe and effective in any trimester.”
Image: Woman gets flu shot via Shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
Receiving a flu shot during pregnancy may reduce the chances that a woman will give worth a baby with low birthweight, a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has found. US News and World Report explains the study:
The study included 340 pregnant women in Bangladesh who were divided into two groups — 170 who received the flu vaccine and 170 who received a different vaccine that does not protect against the flu. All of the women were in their third trimester.
When the seasonal influenza virus was circulating in the population, the flu vaccine group had fewer babies who were small for their gestational age than the other group — about 26 percent versus 45 percent.
The percentage of small-for-gestational-age births was similar in both groups when the influenza virus was dormant, according to the study published Feb. 21 in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
When the influenza virus was circulating, the mean birth weight was 7 pounds in the flu vaccine group and 6.6 pounds in the group that didn’t get flu shots, the investigators found.
“Our data suggest that the prevention of infection with seasonal influenza in pregnant women by vaccination can influence fetal growth,” Dr. Mark Steinhoff, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, and colleagues wrote in their report.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock.
Add a Comment