CDC: Chance of Severe Flu Season, Toy Safety Warning & Other News

CDC: Flu Season’s Mutated ‘H3N2’ Strain Poses Challenges

The 2014-2015 flu season could be “severe,”  and much of the influenza virus already in circulation has mutated and is affecting even those who have had their flu shots, according to federal health officials.

Nonetheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges immediate flu shots for anyone still unvaccinated this season. The CDC also recommends prompt treatment with antiviral drugs for people at high risk of complications from the flu.

While the flu vaccine protects Americans against several strains of the flu, this year’s seasonal influenza A “H3N2” strain has been most common.

“There often are more severe flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths during seasons when these viruses predominate,” the CDC states in a news release.

The H3N2 viruses were dominant during the 2012-2013, 2007-2008, and 2003-2004 seasons. Those three seasons carried the highest mortality levels in the past decade. All were characterized as “moderately severe,” the CDC says.

About half of the H3N2 viruses analyzed are so-called “drift variants,” indicating viruses with mutations that make them different from the season’s vaccine virus. This means the vaccine’s ability to protect against those viruses may be reduced, although vaccinated people may have a milder illness if they do become infected.

During the 2007-2008 flu season, the predominant H3N2 virus was a “drift variant” but the vaccine had an overall efficacy of 37 percent and 42 percent against H3N2 viruses.

“It’s too early to say for sure that this will be a severe flu season, but Americans should be prepared,” said CDC director Tom Frieden, M.D. “We can save lives with a three-pronged effort to fight the flu: vaccination, prompt treatment for people at high risk of complications, and preventive health measures, such as staying home when you’re sick, to reduce flu spread.”

Flu activity is currently low in the United States overall, but is increasing in different parts of the country. “We are just at the beginning of the season. It’s not too late to get your vaccine,” Dr. Frieden says.

See other articles on infection protection:

  • Safe Shopping: Clean Hands, Clean Food
  • 5 Myths About the Flu
  • Good Hygiene is Best Protection Against ‘Enteroviruses’
  • — John Fernandez

    Toy Injuries Spike

    More kids are getting injured while playing with toys, according to a new study published in Clinical Pediatrics, a medical journal.  Emergency department treatments of injured children in the U.S. spiked 40 percent from 1990 to 2011, according to national data. And more than 3 million children were taken to hospitals for injuries linked to toys during that time.

    That translates into one child getting injured about every 11 minutes while playing with a toy, especially foot-powered skateboards. Ride-on toys, especially scooters, were the leading cause of injuries, and accounted for 35 percent of injuries and 42 percent of hospital admissions.

    “The increasing number and rate of toy-related injuries to children, especially those associated with ride-on toys, underscore the need for increased efforts to prevent these injuries,” the study reports.

    Here are additional articles on children and safety:

  • Kids’ Fractures: Can You Catch a Break?
  • ‘Tis the Season for Injuries
  • Break Repairs: Casting vs. Splinting
  • Facts Behind Backpack Safety
  • –Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

    More Than One-Half of Babies in U.S. Sleeping in Potentially Hazardous Conditions

    Despite 20 years of widespread public education by government agencies, doctors and other leaders, 55 percent of babies in the U.S. are still being put to sleep with unsafe bedding, according to the National Infant Sleep Position Study conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Yale University and other institutions.

    “Babies should be placed for sleep on a firm, safety approved mattress and fitted sheet, without any other bedding,” said Carrie K. Shapiro- Mendoza, senior scientist in CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health in the U.S. and a lead author of the study. “Soft objects, toys, crib bumpers, quilts, comforters and loose bedding should be kept out of the baby’s sleep area to decrease a baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and accidental suffocation.”

    SIDS is the leading cause of death in babies 1 month to 1 year of age, says the NIH.

    How to Put Babies ‘Safe to Sleep’
    The study, published online this week in Pediatrics, a publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), reinforces recommendations for safe baby sleep the AAP first issued in 1996, including:

  • Place babies to sleep alone, on their backs, on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
  • Do not use any potentially hazardous bedding or soft objects, such as loose blankets, comforters pillows, quilts or stuffed animals, in cribs, bassinets, adult bed or other places where babies sleep.
  • Dress infants in sleep clothing, such as a one-piece sleeper.
  • Read more stories reported in the blog about babies’ health:

  • Test Detects Birth Defects
  • Myth vs. Fact: Should You Tightly Swaddle Your Newborn?
  • Born Before Their Time
  • Rocking the Nursery: Infections and Newborns
  • Not Just for Royals

    — Tanya Walton

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