Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York State has declared a public health emergency as the influenza epidemic continues to grip the country. The state has seen record cases of the flu with almost 20,000 cases reported this season. A figure more than four times the number of cases last winter flu season.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that flu cases throughout the US have reached “epidemic proportions” with 7.3 percent of deaths last week caused by pneumonia and the flu. The prominent strain of the virus is H3N2, which can be severe.
Influenza H3N2 is a sub type of the flu virus that can infect birds and mammals. The H3N2 strain is increasingly abundant in seasonal influenza, which kills an estimated 36,000 people in the US each year.
In a statement from Governor Cuomo, he said “We are experiencing the worst flu season since at least 2009, and influenza activity in New York State is widespread, with cases reported in all 57 counties and all five boroughs of New York City.”
US Authorities are continuing to urge the public to get vaccinated especially those in high risk groups such as children, senior citizens or those with underlying health conditions.
The only US states that have managed to escape the widespread epidemic were California, Mississippi and Hawaii.
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Chinese state media has reported that two Chinese women have died in the capital in the past 10 days from the Swine flu H1N1 virus. The two cases mark the first deaths from the virus in the capital since 2010.
According to a reports on the Beijing Daily website, a 65-year-old cancer patient and a 22-year-old migrant worker have passed away after contracting the deadly strain of flu.
Weeks of record low temperatures in the country have seen Swine flu infection rates at their highest levels in five years.
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With the flu season in full swing many parents will be considering giving their child / children a flu vaccination to boost their protection against the virus. Flu shots are already given regularly to the elderly but like many parents, you’ll be wondering if it really is safe to have your young ones vaccinated.
No vaccine or drug is 100% safe for everyone. Some children with allergies can’t be immunised as eggs are involved in the manufacturing process. If this is the case then an alternative vaccine can be offered however this can vary from practice to practice and is subject to availability
All flu vaccines cause mild but common reactions. About a third of people get a sore arm from the jab, some with a little redness or even swelling. A fifth of people feel tired or get a headache; some may even get a mild fever. There are other more serious compilations that have been associated with the jab however these are VERY rare.
With the above taken into consideration, maybe the question should be: do the benefits of having my child vaccinated outweigh the risks.
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According to figures from the Health Protection Agency, consultations for patients in England with flu symptoms rose from 23 per 100,000 in mid-December to 33 per 100,000 in the week ending December 30th. Scotland and Northern Ireland also saw similar increases with consultation rates of 37 and 44 per 100,000.
Figures show that although cases of the flu are increasing, they are still below official figures from previous years.
Head of the Health Protection Agency’s respiratory disease department, Professor John Watson, , said: “The latest data should be interpreted with caution due to GP practices being closed on the bank holidays which may have impacted on GP consultation rates. It is vital that those who are most “at risk” from flu make sure they receive their vaccination as this is the most effective way of preventing them from becoming ill with the virus. These “at risk” groups include people with weakened immune systems, those with underlying conditions such as liver, lung or renal diseases, heart problems or diabetes, as well as the over 65’s and pregnant women.”
The release of the figures coincides with the governments “Catch it. Bin it. Kill it” Campaign with is aimed at reducing flu infections rates and help stop the spread of the virus.
For more information on flu vaccinations please see our UK flu vaccination page and also see advice from your GP / doctor.
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According to figures from Health Protection Agency (HPA) over a million people in the UK have been infected by the winter vomiting bug also known as the dreaded norovirus. The figures reveal that a infections in 2012 were 83 per cent higher than in 2011.
Norovirus expert John Harris from the HPA said: “The number of laboratory confirmed cases has risen once again as it appears that we have seen the rise in cases that usually begins in January start a little earlier than we normally expect. Norovirus is very contagious, and very unpleasant. To help prevent spread of the disease, it’s important that people who believe they are unwell with the virus maintain good hand hygiene and stay away from hospitals, schools and care homes, as these closed environments are particularly prone to outbreaks which can cause severe disruption.”
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Today the UK Department of Health (DH) has launched the “Catch it. Bin it. Kill it” campaign to help kerb flu infections.
The campaign is aimed at helping to reduce flu infections rates by urging the public to carry tissues, use them to catch coughs or sneezes, then to bin the tissues and to kill the germs by washing hands.
According to the Department of Health recent studies have shown that respiratory infections are reduced in groups of people who practice good hand and respiratory hygiene measures. They hope this new campaign will raise awareness of good hygiene and have a positive effect on flu other diseases such as norovirus.
The campaign will run for 3 weeks hitting the radio, papers and web near you.
After fighting an infection you could find friendly bacteria puts you on the road to good health
If you’ve suffered from poor health in the past your immune system could be left in a weakened state. If this is the case, your body could be an easy target for bacteria and viruses such as the flu.
Eating a balanced diet that contains a range of essential vitamins and minerals is an important step in building up your immune system, and supplements, such as probiotics, could give your body a much needed boost.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are micro-organisms, such as bacteria or yeast, which are found naturally in the body. Commonly referred to as “good bacteria”, they are essentially the body’s own antibiotics and play a big part in maintaining and improving your health.
Probiotics strengthen the immune system by producing more antibodies and antioxidants. This helps the body to ward off attacks from viruses and bacteria and lessens symptoms for illnesses such as colds and flu.
There are a number of sources of probiotics that we could include in our diet. “Some of the most common sources are yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir (a fermented milk drink) and green olives, as well as other fermented and cultured foods,” explains Zoe Copsey, Head of Nutrition at Lomax Bespoke Fitness, Nutrition and Wellbeing.
Probiotics can also be taken in supplement form which is advised for older people with weaker immune systems (a natural occurrence of ageing), immune-deficient people and in autumn and winter when viral infections are at their highest. People with food intolerances may also wish to take probiotics as a supplement.
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For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season has just started. For those down under they are just wrapping it up as the sun begins to shine. However flu experts are now warning of a new strain of H1N1 (Swine Flu) that is resistant to the drug Tamiflu.
The H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus emerged in April in Mexico and spread swiftly around the globe and killing more than 18,000 people, according to the WHO (World Health Organization).
According to a report being published in today’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine a new strain of Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 virus spreading more easily.
Public health officials in the Australian city of Newcastle took virus samples from 182 patients treated in doctors’ offices and hospitals between May and August. They found that 29 of those samples — or 16 percent — turned out to be resistant to Tamiflu.
Flu experts in the Northern Hemisphere have warned for health organisations to be on the lookout for this flu strain — or any other strain that is resistant to Tamiflu.
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Leeds nurse, Jo Snellin has been awarded a top medical title for her work combating UK winter flu bugs. She is one of just a few people who have been given the title of “flu fighter” for her work.
The district nurse for Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust was given the award in recognition of the support she has given to the national NHS staff flu vaccination campaign.
She was one of 28 people across the country to be honoured after improving uptake of the vaccine by promoting it amongst staff, addressing concerns and dispelling myths. Jo also took the time out to take the important jab to those who couldn’t make the planned sessions.
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The new universal flu vaccine which will only need to be administered just once has been by researchers. The vaccine has been found to be effective against a number of different types of flu virus, including avian flu and swine flu strains.
FLU-v is the first of a new class of breakthrough T Cell vaccines. These are anticipated to be effective against the highly mutagenic influenza virus.
Scientists are planning a large-scale clinical trial and hope to have a vaccine available for widespread use in three to five years time. If trials are successful, it would be offered to the UK’s NHS.
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