ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture Eases Side Effects of Head, Neck Cancer Treatments
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
Pharoah's Wine Jar Yields Medicinal Secrets
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Heart Failure Raises Risk of Fractures
CANCER
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
Gene Studies Reveal Cancer's Secrets
CAREGIVING
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
When the Caregiver Becomes the Patient
Bariatric Surgery Centers Don't Deliver Better Outcomes
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
DIABETES
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
DIET, NUTRITION
TV Food Ads Promote Bad Diets
Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies
10 Beginner Tips for Fast Weight Loss, the Low-Carb Way!
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Hairspray Exposure Ups Risk for Birth Defect in Sons
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
Restaurant Sushi May Have More Mercury Than Store-Bought Fare
EYE CARE, VISION
'Blind' Man Navigates Obstacle Course Without Error
Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Protect Against Eye Disease
Just Like Skin, Eyes Can 'Burn' in Strong Sun
FITNESS
MRSA Infections Can Bug Fitness Buffs
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
'Soda Tax' Wins Health Experts' Support
Standard IQ Test May Underestimate People With Autism
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Omega-3, Some Omega-6 Fatty Acids Boost Cardiovascular Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
Gene Variation Found in Boys With Delinquent Peers
MEN'S HEALTH
Countdown to Hair Loss
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
MENTAL HEALTH
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
Meditation May Boost College Students' Learning
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
SENIORS
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
Nighttime Urination Linked to Higher Death Rate Among Elderly
Any Old Cane Won't Do
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Iodine in Prenatal Vitamins Varies Widely
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Add your Article

Flu Strikes a Milder Blow This Season

WEDNESDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- As the flu season winds down, experts say this has been the mildest season in years.

Less severe strains of influenza and a good vaccine match for the strains that were circulating combined to create a milder season this year than last, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"If we look at mortality and the rate of hospitalizations, it seems like this year is less severe compared to last year and more similar to the years prior to last year," said Dr. Alicia M. Fry, a CDC epidemiologist. "The flu did not reach an epidemic threshold this year."

Historically, she explained, in years where the influenza type A H3N2 subtype is the predominate virus, the season is more severe. "This year was not one of those years," she said. "It was a year where the influenza A H1N1 virus was the predominate virus, followed by the influenza type B viruses."

The CDC arrived at this conclusion using data from 122 cities on deaths from flu or pneumonia among adults and flu-related deaths among children. It appears that flu-related hospitalizations and deaths were significantly lower this year, Fry said

Typically, the flu causes 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths a year, according CDC estimates. The old, the very young and people with chronic illnesses are at greatest risk.

So far this flu season, 43 children have died from the flu compared with 68 during last year's flu season, according to the CDC.

Flu vaccines are often 70 percent to 90 percent effective. Last flu season, the vaccine was only about 20 percent effective against the H3N2 strain and less than 2 percent effective against the B strains, according to the CDC.

But this year's flu vaccine was a very good match for influenza A H1N1 and H3N2, Fry said.

And that's good news, because there had been concerns about antiviral resistance, she said. The drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir), routinely prescribed to people with the flu, is resistant to this year's H1N1 strain, and the H3N2 flu strain is resistant to two other antivirals, rimantadine (Flumadine) and amantadine (Symmetrel).

Although 146 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed this season, the number of people who were actually vaccinated is unknown, Fry said.

Cases of the flu started to increase in January and peaked in the middle of February, Fry said. "There has been decreasing activity since," she said. "However, we still have many states that are still seeing flu activity."

And what might occur next year remains a mystery. "Never predict the flu season," Fry said. "That's the secret."

Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, said that several factors combined to make this year's flu season milder.

"The prevailing strains are not that virulent and are not particularly new," Siegel said. "The H1N1 strain is a distant descendant of the Spanish flu, but we have all built up a lot of immunity to it over the years."

In addition, he said, there was a lot of vaccine available this year, and there has been a high level of compliance. "Adding the 5- to 18-year-old age group to those who get vaccinated helped, since flu super-spreaders are generally children who don't take precautions, like washing their hands," he said.

"People are more aware of the flu because of recent media attention, but the former hysteria may have finally been converted into proper precaution-taking," Siegel added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the flu.



SOURCES: Alicia M. Fry, M.D., M.P.H., epidemiologist, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Marc Siegel, M.D., associate professor of medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York City

Last Updated: April 08, 2009

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