Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Swine Flu Strain Keeps Health Officials on Alert/ ABC News

ABC News reports that a new strain of influenza has appeared in several states.  CDC officials are worrying that it might become the predominant strain this flu season.  Based on modelling, CDC thinks Tamiflu might help.  (However, Tamiflu only shortens bouts of flu by one day, according to the package insert.  It is probably a CDC favorite because it is better than nothing, which is the alternative.)

Does the new flu strain mean the seasonal flu vaccine won't work?  That seems to be the major concern, since no one has said it is killing its victims.
CDC scientists said they expected this years’ seasonal flu vaccine to provide adults with limited protection from the new flu virus, but that it wouldn’t help children.
What?  How can it work for adults but not for kids?  The "killed" child vaccine uses the identical antigens as the adult flu vaccine.  And the live child vaccine should also have those antigens, plus others.

Read between the lines:  adults (vaccinated or not) have had more exposures to influenza viruses than children, and it's an old exposure that will provide the immunity.  Adults who don't get vaccinated may even have better immunity than those who do, as the natural protection gained through exposure is more robust and long-lasting.  The elderly did not get sick from swine flu because an antigenically similar virus had come through many decades ago.  Immunity persisted.

But kids have had fewer seasons of influenza exposures, and therefore are less likely to be protected.

CDC wants you to get your shot, regardless.  So its spin docs are claiming "limited protection" for this year's shot. 

And after you get vaccinated, I have a flying pig to sell you.

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