Archive for the ‘influenza’ Category

As COVID-19 rages around the globe, other infectious diseases shrink away

July 31st, 2020
Few people and no cars dot a street amidst highrises.

Enlarge / A masked pedestrian crosses an empty street at a usually busy intersection in the Central Business District on February 3, 2020, in Beijing, China. (credit: Getty | Keven Frayer)

Reports of influenza and a host of other infectious diseases have plummeted as the COVID-19 pandemic has driven people into lockdowns.

In many places, social distancing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus may be smothering the spread of other infectious diseases at the same time. But, in other places, the pandemic may simply be masking disease spread, as people may avoid seeking care for more routine infections while health care systems stretched thin by the pandemic may struggle to conduct routine, surveillance, testing, and reporting.

Some of the resulting declines are dramatic. Countries across the Southern Hemisphere have reported much lower numbers of influenza than usual. Australia, for instance, began 2020 with a relatively high level of flu—reporting around 7,000 lab-confirmed cases in both January and February. But the outbreak crashed in March, with reports of only 229 cases in April, compared with nearly 19,000 in April 2019, as noted by the New Scientist.

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Posted in COVID-19, Infectious disease, influenza, lockdowns, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, social distancing | Comments (0)

As pandemic rages out of control, CDC head warns of darker times this fall

July 15th, 2020
A serious man in a business suit puts on a surgical mask.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images / Pool)

If seasonal influenza roars back this fall while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, the combined weight of the diseases could cause US healthcare systems to collapse, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday.

The grim warning comes as COVID-19 is spreading out of control in many areas of the country, which is now seeing upwards of 60,000 new cases a day.

I am worried,” CDC director Robert Redfield said in a live interview with Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of the medical journal JAMA. “I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times we’ve experienced in American public health.”

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, flu, healthcare, Infectious disease, influenza, masks, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

As COVID-19 spreads, researchers tracking an influenza virus nervously

July 5th, 2020
Image of pigs snuggling.

Enlarge (credit: Liz West / Flickr)

SARS-CoV-2 wasn't the first coronavirus that spawned fears of a pandemic; there were worries about SARS and MERS before it arrived. But influenza viruses have also been a regular source of worries, as they can often spread from agricultural animals to us. Earlier this week, a report was released that described an influenza virus with what the researchers who identified it called "pandemic potential." The virus is currently jumping from agricultural animals to us, but it is not currently able to spread between humans.

Under surveillance

The institutions that some of these researchers are affiliated with—the Key Laboratory of Animal Epidemiology and Zoonosis, the Chinese National Influenza Center, and the Center for Influenza Research and Early-Warning—provide some indication of how seriously China has been taking the risk of newly evolved influenza strain.

For seven years, these centers supported the researchers as they did something that makes whatever you did for your thesis research seem pleasant: taking nasal swabs from pigs. Nearly 30,000 of these swabs came from random pigs showing up at slaughterhouses, plus another 1,000 from pigs brought in to veterinary practices with respiratory problems. Why pigs? Well, for one, some historic pandemics, named for their species of origin, are called swine flu. And there's a reason for this: pigs are known to be infected by influenza viruses native to other pigs, to birds, and to us humans—who they often find themselves in close proximity to.

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Unusual type of flu virus is dominating early start to this year’s flu season

December 10th, 2019
A child received a vaccination against influenza A (H1N1).

Enlarge / A child received a vaccination against influenza A (H1N1). (credit: Getty | BSIP)

The 2019-2020 flu season is up and running—and so far, it's off to a weird start.

Flu activity has been elevated since the start of November and is only expected to continue climbing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in its latest flu update. That's a few weeks earlier than in past years.

Flu season in the United States can ramp up in the fall and peak anywhere between December and March, then drag itself out as late as May. In the last 36 years, flu most often ramped up in December and January and peaked in February. But for this winter, the CDC says there's a 40 percent chance the flu will peak in December based on activity so far.

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