influenza

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"Can you give meaningful context for how the current number of deaths due to Coronavirus compare to the average number of deaths caused by the flu every year?"  -- Wes H.

In arguing for returning the country to some kind of normal sooner rather than later, President Trump noted that 36,000 people, on average, die from the flu each year.

"But we've never closed down the country for the flu," the president said during an appearance on Fox News on Tuesday. "So you say to yourself, 'What is this all about?' "

While health officials in the United States wait to see just how bad a public health challenge COVID-19 will pose, they still have to deal with an all-too-familiar challenge: flu.

It's been a bad flu season. Not the worst ever, but bad.

"It started very early this year," says Emily Martin, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collecting statistics about flu.

Sarah King isn't afraid of having the flu — in fact, she considers herself an "excellent sick person."

"I have a pretty high pain tolerance," King says. "I'm not a person that whines a lot. I just kind of suck it up."

So when she heard about a medical study that pays volunteers about $3,000 to be infected with the live flu virus, King thought the offer sounded too good to pass up. Last fall, she checked in for a 10-day stay at Saint Louis University's "Hotel Influenza," a quarantine unit where researchers study how the human immune system fights the flu.

If you live in the U.S., your risk of contracting the new strain of coronavirus identified in China is exceedingly low.

Here's Why You Really Need A Flu Shot

Dec 20, 2019

Thanksgiving leftovers are a distant memory, and December's extra travel, shopping and family commitments are already straining nerves, budgets and immune systems. It's officially "the holidays" — which also means we're well into a new flu season.

It's never too late to benefit from a flu shot, even into December and January, says Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt School of Medicine in Nashville.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu season is starting to ramp up — and it's not too late to reduce your risk with a vaccine.

But scientists have come to realize that flu vaccines are less effective for people who are overweight or obese. Considering that excess weight affects more than two-thirds of the U.S. adult population, that's a significant shortcoming.

Researchers are studying why that's the case, with an eye toward developing better flu vaccines.

October marks the start of a new flu season, with a rise in likely cases already showing up in Louisiana and other spots, federal statistics show.

The advice from federal health officials remains clear and consistent: Get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, especially if you're pregnant or have asthma or another underlying condition that makes you more likely to catch a bad case.

Updated 4:45pm E.T.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporarily suspended intake at the McAllen Central Processing Center on Tuesday, the largest migrant processing center in South Texas, after the outbreak of what the agency calls "a flu-related illness."

It is the same facility where a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy became ill last week, and died after he was transferred to another Border Patrol station.

Compared to most disease-causing viruses, influenza is a particularly hard nut to crack. A two-dose vaccine in childhood protects you from measles for life. Smallpox is similarly preventable with a single vaccine. But to evade the flu virus, we need a different vaccine each year which, even at its most effective, can fail to protect against all strains of the virus.

Why?

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