A strain of an influenza virus now circulating in China remains a potential pandemic threat while many gaps remain in preparing for such an event, a group of global health experts at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) warned last month.
In last year’s flu season, 80,000 people died, including 180 children, and 900,000 people were hospitalized, making it the worst flu season in 40 years – underscoring the importance of seasonal flu coverage for every public health reporter.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield unveiled the figures first during an interview with the Associated Press on Sept. 26. CDC officials confirmed the figures at a news briefing at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Sept. 27. Continue reading
When the Atlantic’s Ed Yong began thinking about a story on health security, he realized he needed a basic definition for a core point of the story — what is emergency health preparedness?
“Something dawned on me,” Yong said. “I didn’t really understand what exactly preparedness meant. I had been writing the word for a long time and doing stories on it, but it felt a bit abstract and nebulous.” Continue reading
As summer ebbs, influenza season is around the corner. Public health officials are beginning their annual campaign to urge people to get a flu shot long before cases begin to peak in January or February.
So what’s new for journalists to write about this year? Take a look at what happened last flu season and at some new data showing that flu vaccination may also reduce the chances of heart attacks and stroke, especially in those 65 or older. Continue reading
In February 1918, a Haskell County, Kan., paper, the Santa Fe Monitor, reported almost a dozen people were “quite sick” with pneumonia. At the time, the stories may not have seemed significant. Many people get sick in the winter.
Decades later, however, the stories became hugely important. The Monitor’s report helped disease detectives piece together the trail of the world’s greatest influenza pandemic and its epicenter, according to “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History” by author John Barry. The 1918 flu, which ultimately killed about 50 million people globally, likely began in Haskell County, where scientists think the deadly flu virus jumped between animals and humans and then to troops at a nearby army base readying to fight World War I.
Why this matters today was highlighted in a Stat story this week by Helen Branswell, “When Towns Lose Their Newspapers, Disease Detectives are Left Flying Blind.” Continue reading
This year’s severe flu season has increased the spotlight on the development of a “universal” influenza vaccine – a vaccine that would be effective against most strains of the flu.
But that vaccine has been elusive.
In 2011, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told USA Today that he was “guardedly optimistic” a universal flu vaccine would be within reach in five years after scientists identified pieces of the virus that consistently appeared in seasonal and pandemic flu viruses. Continue reading