Entries in Epidemic (2)


'Unpredictable' Flu Spreads to 47 States, but Might Have Peaked in Some Areas

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The flu has spread to 47 states, making the outbreak an epidemic. But there are some early indicators that the number of flu cases may have peaked in some parts of the country, federal health officials said.

Five fewer states reported high flu activity levels in the first week of January than the 29 that reported high activity levels in the last week of December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly flu report. This week, 24 states reported high illness levels, 16 reported moderate levels, five reported low levels and one reported minimal levels, suggesting that the flu season peaked in the last week of December.

Despite the glimmer of good news, CDC officials said the virus could still make a comeback in the final weeks of the season and urged Americans to make sure they get flu shots.

"It's not surprising. Influenza ebbs and flows during the flu season," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a Friday morning teleconference. "The only thing predictable about the flu is that it is unpredictable."

An early CDC study found this year's vaccine had an efficacy of 62 percent, making the preventive shot only moderately effective.

Although 130 million dosages of the vaccine were distributed, there have been reports of spot shortages across the country.

A Rite Aid store in Brooklyn, N.Y., told ABC News Radio it may not have enough dosages to last through the heightened weekend demand.

With a few phone calls or some online research, officials said people seeking the vaccine should be able to find a provider within a relatively close distance of their homes.

One helpful online tool is the HealthMap Vaccine Finder, which includes 40,000 locations across the United States and allows users to enter their ZIP codes to find a nearby provider of the flu vaccine.

"We don't know when this is going to end. This could be the worst flu in a decade," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor.

When deciding whether to stay home from work or seek medical attention, Besser said there is a key difference between the common cold and influenza.

"If you think about a cold, it usually affects you from the neck up -- congestion, sinus fullness, sore throat," Besser said. "But the flu is going to affect your whole body. You're going to feel achy all over."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Cholera Epidemic in Haiti Likely to Be Far Worse than Initially Predicted

THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- While United Nations officials had initially predicted 400,00 people would be affected by the cholera epidemic in Haiti, the outbreak could now affect twice as many people, according to recent estimates by U.S researchers.

Cases of the bacterial disease, which is spread person-to-person and through contaminated water and food, were never reported on the island before last year's catastrophic earthquake.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco say the number of cholera cases could reach 779,000, with more than 11,000 deaths by the end of November 2011.  Dr. Sanjay Basu and colleagues determined these estimates after an analysis of data from Haiti's Ministry of Health.

The team based their predictions on factors such as the population's level of immunity to the disease, and which water supplies have been contaminated.

They concluded that the epidemic is likely to be much larger and will last far longer than initial projections.

The researchers told The Lancet journal that more aid will be needed in the Caribbean country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio