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Entries in Flu Season (12)

Friday
Nov252011

CDC: 10 Cases of New Swine Flu in Four States Since July

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- U.S. health officials remain on the alert for additional cases of a new swine flu strain that infected three Iowa children this month.

Since July, 10 Americans have been sickened by S-OtrH3N2 viruses that picked up a gene from the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. The new flu strain combines a rare influenza virus (H3N2) circulating in North American pigs and the H1N1 virus from the 2009 outbreak. New flu strains develop when flu viruses combine in new ways and can pose health risks because people haven’t yet developed immunity to them.

Of the other seven cases of the new swine flu, three occurred in Pennsylvania, two in Maine and two in Indiana, the CDC reported in a Wednesday dispatch in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In all of those cases, either the patients or close contacts had been recently exposed to pigs.

The lack of pig exposure in the three newest cases suggests that the new virus may involve limited person-to-person contact. As part of routine preparedness to counter pandemic threats from new flu viruses, the CDC said it had developed a “candidate vaccine virus” that could be used to make a human vaccine against S-OtrH3N2 viruses and has sent it to vaccine manufacturers.

One of the three Iowa children, a previously healthy girl referred to as Patient A, became sick during the second week of November. Her doctor tested her as part of routine surveillance and sent a respiratory sample to the Iowa state laboratory for further analysis. Patient B, a boy, developed a flu-like illnesses two days after the Patient A became ill. A day after Patient B became sick, his brother, Patient C, also became ill. Both tested positive for swine flu. All three children had attended the same small gathering on the first day Patient A fell ill.

After a detailed investigation, Iowa epidemiologists determined that the gathering was the only common link among the three children’s illnesses. None of their families had recently traveled or attended community events, and none of the three or their families had been exposed to pigs, according to the CDC.

Eight days after Patient A became ill, Iowa state laboratory testing indicated the three might have S-OtrH3N2 influenza. The CDC subsequently confirmed the three youngsters had the strain, which included the so-called matrix (M) gene from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

The new flu strain is resistant to two commonly used antiviral drugs, rimantidine and amantadine, but based upon their genetic structure, would likely respond to osteltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct312011

Top Tips for the Flu Season

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Flu season is here. But what’s the big deal about the flu? It’s just the flu, right?

Wrong.

If you’re young and healthy, most likely you will just feel lousy for a week or two, miss some work, and spread the infection to some of your favorite people. If you’re elderly, have medical problems, are pregnant, or are a young child, you may not be so lucky. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to influenza. Depending on the year, between 3,000 and 49,000 people die.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.

A new study on flu vaccines found that the flu vaccine doesn’t work as well as we thought or would like. However, it still offers considerable protection. In adults ages 18-65 the benefits of the flu shot vary year by year, but on average the vaccine is 59-percent protective. For children the story is better. For those younger than 7 the nasal spray vaccine is 83-percent protective. Clearly, we need better vaccines but it’s still a really good idea to get vaccinated.

A couple of myths to bust:

1.  Can the flu shot give me the flu?

No. You may have a sore arm or a little fever, but the shot does not contain a live virus and cannot give you the flu.

2.  If I got the flu shot last year, do I need it this year?

Yes.  It isn’t clear how long protection lasts and most years the vaccine protects against different strains of flu than the year before.

How do you know if you have the flu or just a bad cold? Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly and frequently and include high fever, headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat and body aches. Some people, particularly children, may have diarrhea and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, do not come to work. The last thing you really want to do is infect others.

Finally, here is some advice for what to do if you get the flu.

If you have underlying medical problems, call your doctor early in the illness to see if they want to
prescribe an antiviral drug.

Stay home until your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours. That will cut down on the number of
people you give this to.

Cover your coughs and sneezes.

Keep your hands clean. Use soap and water or hand sanitizer frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing.

Drink plenty of liquids.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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