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National Institutes of Health
NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
2015 Seasonal Flu: 01/20/2015
Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov
Regards to all our listeners!
I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff U.S. National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Flu.gov reports it appears to be a severe flu season with cases occurring throughout most of the U.S. From the latest information available in early January, seasonal flu is widespread and I regret to report it has taken the lives of 26 children across the nation.
More specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) reports the flu is widespread in all of the U.S. with these exceptions where it is regional: California; Arizona; Alaska; the U.S. Virgin Islands; and Puerto Rico. The CDC reports (as of early January) flu cases are localized - but not widespread or regional - in only the District of Columbia and Hawaii.
To provide some perspective, a medical officer in the CDC’s influenza division recently told Health Day the number of children’s deaths from flu varies annually. The CDC official told Health Day (and we quote): ‘In some years we see as few as 30 (children’s deaths). In other years we have seen over 170’ (end of quote).
The CDC’s current information suggests the proportion of persons who visited medical offices, clinics, and hospitals for flu-like symptoms was nearly six percent in late December, which is significantly higher than expected baseline of about two percent. Hence, the higher than normal proportion of flu-derived medical office visits helps explain the CDC’s current assessment of a severe flu season.
You can find the latest information about the flu’s spread in the U.S. by typing ‘CDC flu outbreak information’ in any web browser, and then clicking on “Weekly US map: Influenza Summary Update.’ You can find the latest data about the flu’s incidence in the U.S. by typing ‘CDC flu outbreak information’ in any web browser, and then clicking on “Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.’
The information we just cited is from early January. Flu outbreak information probably will change by the time you hear this — and the aforementioned websites are what journalists and public health professionals rely on to get nationally-based flu updates.
Otherwise, Flu.gov reports common flu symptoms include: fever; chills; cough; sore throat; muscle aches; and fatigue. Flu.gov explains the people at the highest risk of flu (and related complications) include: young children (especially kids under two years old); adults who are age 65 and older; pregnant women; and anyone with a chronic health condition.
You can link to Flu.gov directly in any web browser, or you can find it in the ‘start here’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s flu health topic page.
Flu.gov also recommends Americans who have not received a flu shot should be vaccinated. The flu shot is widely obtainable and is available at some drug stores and supermarkets in some parts of the U.S.
Flu.gov additionally suggests Americans take precautions such as washing your hands, covering a cough, and staying away from folks who may have the flu, or seem ill. While Health Day explains the currently predominant H3NW strain is not specifically targeted in this year’s flu vaccine, Flu.gov notes the vaccine offers more protection than inaction.
Flu.gov adds the flu season in the U.S. usually is between October and May and usually peaks in January or February.
Meanwhile, some basic questions and answers about the flu are available in a website from the American Thoracic Society, which is available in the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s flu health topic page.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides some information that helps you distinguish between a cold and the flu within the ‘diagnosis/symptoms’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s flu health topic page.
Easy-to-read, evidence-based articles about avoiding the flu, stopping the flu, seasonal flu shots, and understanding the flu — from NIH MedlinePlus magazine — are available on the right side of MedlinePlus.gov’s flu health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov’s flu health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about flu as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s flu health topic page, type ‘flu’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘Flu (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page devoted to the common cold.
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It was nice to be with you. I look forward to meeting you here next week.