THE OUTBREAK

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With Americans on edge about the potential spread of Ebola, it is easy to overlook another virus to which we have long been accustomed — influenza. According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu takes anywhere from 3,000 to 48,000 lives a year in this country, depending on the severity of the disease in a given flu season. But as lethal as the flu can be,… Read More

  NEWBURYPORT — Local veterinarians have been notified that the canine influenza has arrived in Greater Newburyport. Dog owners who were unaware that there is even a dog flu aren’t alone. Canine influenza was first discovered in Florida in 2005, and while the virus will have pockets of outbreaks and has made appearances in other states, this is the first time it has ever been seen in dogs in Massachusetts, said Dr…. Read More

LIVERPOOL, UK – 30 April 2014: Scientists at the University of Liverpool have shown how the travel and socialisation patterns of people in Southern China can give greater insight into how new diseases such as bird flu may spread between populations. Southern China is one of the most important regions of the planet for the development and spread of new diseases in humans. In recent years a combination of high population density,… Read More

In an invited perspective article on the Ebola outbreak under way in West Africa, Heinz Feldmann, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) emphasizes the need for scientists to make their data available to colleagues in real-time to improve the public health response to outbreaks. He cites past responses to influenza and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreaks as successful examples of global information sharing. Rapid diagnoses are key to… Read More

The 1918 H1N1 pandemic influenza virus may have originated from reassortment between a human flu virus lineage and an avian flu virus, researchers speculate today after conducting a phylogenetic evolutionary analysis. The findings run contrary to previous estimates of the virus’s evolution. US and UK researchers analyzed full-length gene sequences from human, bird, and swine viruses over the years involving H1, H2, H5, and N1 subtypes, according to their study in Proceedings… Read More

The H5N1 bird flu virus has infected and killed hundreds of people, despite the fact that, at the moment, the virus can’t spread easily between people. The death toll could become much worse if the virus became airborne. A study published by Cell Press April 10th in the journal Cell has revealed a minimal set of mutations allowing H5N1 to be transmitted through the air from one ferret to another. The findings… Read More

Flu epidemics cause up to half a million deaths worldwide each year, and emerging strains continually threaten to spread to humans and cause even deadlier pandemics. A study published by Cell Press on April 10 in the journal Immunity reveals that a drug that inhibits a molecule called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) increases survival rates in mice infected with a lethal dose of the H1N1 flu virus. The findings pave the way for… Read More

Five years after the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus emerged, the world’s ability to cope with a flu pandemic is a bit better than it was in April 2009, but there’s still a long way to go, says Harvey Fineberg, MD, PhD, who chaired the international committee that was assigned by the World Health Organization (WHO) to evaluate the global response to the pandemic. “We said in our core conclusion that the world… Read More

Flu’s winter grip on the nation continued to thaw last week, with a key marker—clinic visits for flulike illness—falling below the national baseline for the first time in 14 weeks, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today. The clinic visit marker had hugged the 2% baseline level for the past few weeks, but it fell to 1.7% last week, the CDC said. However, the situation varied in different… Read More

Our response to societal pressures about vaccination has a direct effect on the spread of pediatric infectious diseases in areas where inoculation is not mandatory, says new research published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. By incorporating social norms into predictive mathematical modelling, a research team from the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo found that they can foresee the observed patterns of population behaviour and disease… Read More