Tag Archives: flu season

New universal influenza B vaccine induces broad, sustained protection

A new universal flu vaccine protects against influenza B viruses, offering broad defense against different strains and improved immune protection, according to a new study by researchers in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University.

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The double-layered protein nanoparticle vaccine, which is constructed with a stabilized portion of the influenza virus (the hemagglutinin (HA) stalk), induced broadly reactive immune responses and conferred robust and sustained cross-immune protection against influenza B virus strains of both lineages. The findings are published in the journal Biomaterials.

Influenza epidemics pose a major threat to public health, and type B influenza has coincided with several severe flu outbreaks. About one-fourth of clinical infection cases are caused by influenza B viruses each year. Influenza B viruses are sometimes the dominant circulating strains during influenza seasons, such as the 2019-20 U.S. flu season when influenza B caused more than 50 percent of the infections. 

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Repeated seasonal influenza vaccines also provide kids better protection against future flu pandemics

Researchers at McMaster University have found that children who receive years of season-specific flu vaccines develop antibodies that also provide broader protection against new strains, including those capable of causing pandemics.

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The same ability does not exist in adults.

The findings, reported today in the journal Cell Reports Medicine, could inform the design of a universal influenza virus vaccine for children, who are especially vulnerable to serious complications from flu, such as pneumonia, dehydration and, in rare cases, death. 

“Little is known about how seasonal flu vaccination impacts the immune responses in children, who are a major source of flu transmission and a very high-risk group,” explains Matthew Miller, lead author of the study and Associate Professor at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Diseases Research. “Understanding how seasonal vaccination and different vaccine formulations shape childhood immunity is critical for effective prevention.”

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No more annual flu shot? New target for universal influenza vaccine

A new antibody discovered in the blood of some people vaccinated against or infected with influenza can recognize a broad variety of flu viruses.

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Scientists at Scripps Research, University of Chicago and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have identified a new Achilles’ heel of influenza virus, making progress in the quest for a universal flu vaccine. Antibodies against a long-ignored section of the virus, which the team dubbed the anchor, have the potential to recognize a broad variety of flu strains, even as the virus mutates from year to year, they reported Dec. 23, 2021 in the journal Nature.

“It’s always very exciting to discover a new site of vulnerability on a virus because it paves the way for rational vaccine design,” says co-senior author Andrew Ward, PhD, professor of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology at Scripps Research. “It also demonstrates that despite all the years and effort of influenza vaccine research there are still new things to discover.”

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Which older adults are getting their flu shots and Covid boosters? – U-M

With two viruses threatening to make older adults sick this winter, a new poll shows most people over 50 have gotten vaccines to protect them against both influenza and coronavirus, or plan to. And a majority of those who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine plan to get an additional dose to boost their level of protection.

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But the poll, taken in mid-October, also reveals major differences in vaccine attitudes between older adults of different age groups, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and other characteristics including personal political leaning.

The new findings come from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, based at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.

The poll finds that 1 in 3 older adults feel it is more important to get vaccinated against the flu this year than in years before the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all of the rest said the importance this year is the same.

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Performance feedback at clinics increases flu vaccination rates

Every year the flu threatens the health of millions of people. Experts continue to recommend annual flu vaccination as the best line of defense, but despite these recommendations, flu vaccination rates haven’t broken 50% in more than a decade. New research in the INFORMS journal Management Science seeks to overcome this. The study finds that performance feedback at healthcare clinics can significantly increase vaccination rates. This has important public policy implications. Citing other research, the authors highlight that even just a 1% increase in U.S. adult flu vaccination rates could translate to some $400 million in societal benefits.

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The study, “Focusing Provider Attention: An Empirical Examination of Incentives and Feedback in Flu Vaccinations,” was conducted by Bradley Staats and Robert Niewoehner III, both of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in partnership with VaxCare, a technology company that partners with clinics to coordinate vaccination logistics. The study looked at 145 clinics in nine different states and tested whether financial incentives or performance feedback might improve vaccination rates.

“We find clinics that got performance rankings grew their flu vaccinations more than all other clinics. Specifically, our experiment led to a 12% increase in flu shots for these clinics,” said Staats, a professor of operations and Sarah Graham Kenan Scholar, faculty director of the Center for the Business of Health and associate dean of MBA programs in the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. “We also find that the clinics who received rankings don’t want to come in last – that is, they do whatever they can to avoid the bottom rankings. Because of this, in trying move up, the clinics near last-place end up outperforming their corresponding control clinics by 23 percentage points – a significant margin!”

This research stands to have a very large impact. If even just a portion of the increased vaccination rates go to at-risk groups, this could avert serious health consequences.

“Even further – if most of an increase in flu shots went to seniors, the CDC estimates that this could prevent thousands of hospitalizations,” said Niewoehner, a doctoral candidate in the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“Our study shows that behavioral interventions like our experiment can improve performance outcomes, even when targeting seemingly immutable trends, like flu vaccination rates. Going forward, we believe our findings hold great promise for improving public health and company operations in general.”

I would like to add a personal note here. Long before the pandemic raised the prospect of defensive vaccinations, I found that ‘flu shots’ was a hot button topic. I get a flu shot every year and I recommend that to everyone I can. In addition, I have an annual post “It’s time to get that flu shot.” Initially, I was amazed at the vitriolic responses from readers. After all, I was just passing along my doctor’s recommendation. So, vaccinations are a very sensitive subject in our culture. For the record, I get a flu shot every year, and I got the Pfizer-Biontec shots back in February and March of this year.

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Flu vaccine may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease – Study

People who received at least one flu vaccination were 17% less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease over the course of a lifetime, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

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First author Albert Amran, a fourth-year medical student at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, presented the findings at the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference July 27-31. The conference was held virtually due to COVID-19. Senior author of the study was Paul E. Schulz, MD, Rick McCord Professor in Neurology and Umphrey Family Professor in Neurodegenerative Diseases at UTHealth.

“Because there are no treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, it is crucial that we find ways to prevent it and delay its onset,” Amran said. “About 5.8 million people in the United States have this disease, so even a small reduction in risk can make a dramatic difference. We began our study by looking for ways we could reduce this risk.” Continue reading

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First exposure to flu virus sets our immunity for life – Study

Were you born in an H1N1 year or an H3N2 year? The first type of influenza virus we are exposed to in early childhood dictates our ability to fight the flu for the rest of our lives, according to a new study from a team of infectious disease researchers at McMaster University and Université de Montréal.

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The findings, published this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, provide compelling new evidence to support the phenomenon known as ‘antigenic imprinting’, which suggests that early exposure to one of the two flu strains that circulate every year imprints itself on our immunity and disproportionately affects the body’s lifelong response to the flu. Continue reading

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Don’t forget the current flu …

With the coronavirus hitting the headlines, let’s keep in mind our own local U.S. situation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting high activity of influenza and influenza-like illnesses across the country. In its latest report, the CDC estimates that during this season in the United States, 9.7 million cases of flu have been diagnosed, 32 children and 4,800 adults have died due to influenza.

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* CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.

I couldn’t agree more. See my It’s time to get that flu shot post from October.

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4 Tips for staying healthy this winter

Colder temperatures, inclement weather, reductions in the amount of daylight, and the spread of cold and flu viruses can all have a significant impact on your winter well-being, making it more challenging for you to stay safe and healthy.

Here are four important tips and tricks to help you cope with the cold weather, care for your immune system, and stay active until spring arrives, from Western Connecticut Medical Group.

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Tip 1: Prepare in Advance

A little prevention in the fall can help everyone — and especially older adults — avoid serious wintertime accidents. Precautions include preventing falls by installing handrails and fixing uneven or steep stairs before the weather turns cold and icy.

Fall is also a great time to work on increasing your flexibility. Increasing your flexibility decreases your risk of falling. And if you do fall, flexibility helps to decrease the severity of the injury. Stretching several times a week can improve your flexibility. Traditional stretching, yoga, tai chi, or Pilates are all great ways to stay flexible. Continue reading

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It’s time to get that flu shot

It’s time to get that flu shot.

I have been writing this blog since March 2010. There are approximately 4000 posts in here. I think one of the most incendiary topics in that entire time is … flu shots. I get one every year. My doctor tells me to. I listen to her and I got one on Friday. I think you should, too.

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While the impact of flu varies, it places a substantial burden on the health of people in the United States each year. CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9.2 million and 60.8 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010. flu-burden-cases.png

The following is excerpted from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.

How do flu vaccines work? Continue reading

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Regular flu shots may save heart failure patients’ lives – Study

I get a flu shot every year and recommend it for everyone, particularly seniors. I started doing it in the ’90’s when I was teaching journalism. One of my students wrote them up and a senior citizen told her than since getting flu shots she not only hadn’t got the flu, but she didn’t even catch colds any more. Now, it turns out that the shots are also a benefit for heart failure patients.

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Getting an annual flu shot can save heart failure patients’ lives, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation. Continue reading

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Flu shot time

I have been writing this blog since March 2010. I have produced a total of more than 3700 posts in that period. I think one of the most incendiary topics in that entire time is … flu shots. I get one every year. My doctor tells me to. I listen to her and I got one on Friday. I think you should too.

While the impact of flu varies, it places a substantial burden on the health of people in the United States each year. CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9.2 million and 60.8 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010. flu-burden-cases.png

The following is excerpted from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.

Continue reading

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Is it a cold or the flu???

Here, in mid-October it is probably early times to be talking about flu vs. cold symptoms, but  better to be a bit too early in this regard than too late. Following is a great rundown on the differences between these two afflictions.

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What is the difference between a cold and flu?

Flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. Flu can have very serious associated complications. Continue reading

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How you need to fight the flu

The flu has further tightened its grip on the U.S. This season it is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago, according to Medical Xpress.

A government report out Friday shows one of every 13 visits to the doctor last week was for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That ties the highest level seen in the U.S. during swine flu in 2009.

And it surpasses every winter flu season since 2003, when the government changed the way it measures flu.

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Here are two of my weapons for fighting the flu.

“I wish that there were better news this week, but almost everything we’re looking at is bad news,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu season usually takes off in late December and peaks around February. This season started early and was widespread in many states by December. Early last month, it hit what seemed like peak levels—but then continued to surge.

The season has been driven by a nasty type of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths than other more common flu bugs. Still, its long-lasting intensity has surprised experts, who are still sorting out why it’s been so bad. One possibility is that the vaccine is doing an unusually poor job; U.S. data on effectiveness is expected next week.

I have written an entire page on fighting the flu which you can access here – How to fight the flu. For the record, I recommend flu shots. I know that this is an emotional hot button for people, so if you are against them fine. Your call. I am aware that this year’s flu shot was off as far as nailing the virus and it has been called only 10 percent effective. Okay, that is not as good as the usual round of vaccinations, but I will still take it against no shot. In addition, doctors tell me that if you get the flu after the shot, it is a less virulent dose and you recover faster, also you don’t spread flu germs as much as an unvaccinnated person.

I would like to conclude with a very down to earth recommendation that I hope you will heed. Keep your hands clean. You can bring flu bugs into your body by touching a dirty surface and moving your hands to your face. The virus enters through your open mouth, nose and eyes. If you ride public transportation, wear gloves to hold on to the strap or pole. You don’t know who held it previously or what germs they were carrying. Likewise, in your public dealings. I live in a high rise building. So, I touch a lot of surfaces, elevator buttons, door handles, etc. that others touch. So, I am carrying hand wipes as well as a liquid disinfectant that I rub on my hands.

The flu is hardy and can survive on surfaces for a day. A common way to catch it is to touh your face after  you touch an infected surface. Pay attention and don’t touch your face before washing your hands.

Here is what the CDC says about flu germs spread:

Person to Person

People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

To avoid this, people should stay away from sick people and stay home if sick. It also is important to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Eating utensils can be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap and do not need to be cleaned separately. Further, frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at home, work and school, especially if someone is ill.

The Flu Is Contagious

Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.

We have long weeks ahead of us till the flu threat abates, stay clean.

Tony

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Boost Your Immune System And Ward Off Viruses With These Foods

I hope this will be helpful to you. Seems the entire country is under attack by the coronavirus with the flu waiting in the wings. When I was only concerned about weight loss, I learned that diet was bout 75 percent of the battle. Seems the same for the immune system. too.

Our Better Health

Chicken soup helps, sure, but a diet rich in vegetables, fish and even garlic can help lessen the severity of a cold or prevent you from getting sick.

The combination of chicken, homemade broth, veggies (such as carrots, celery and onions) and noodles or rice in chicken soup is immune-boosting and soothing, and the warm broth clears your nasal passages and keeps you hydrated.

Winter doesn’t just bring the blues, it also gifts us with coughs, runny noses and sore throats. It’s not because of the old adage of bundling up or “you’ll catch a cold!” We tend to get more cold and flu viruses during the winter as germs survive longer indoors due to poor ventilation and lack of humidity, and we are stuck indoors for much longer during the frigid months.

There’s a key to rev up our immune system that can make a huge difference: you are…

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Food to Fight The Flu: Fact Vs Fiction

I stumbled across this post in my web wanderings and thought it had a lot of good solid nutritional information in it that seemed very appropriate considering that winter seems to have arrived full force.

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Tony

Osinga Nutrition | Registered Dietitian in the Durham Region

 “Let medicine be thy food and let food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates

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