Tis the season …when a simple cough can turn to a fever - in no time.
Experts say up to 50 percent of us may come down with the flu this year. The flu kills a worldwide average of 500,000 annually, with more than 36,000 here in the u-s. Experts encourage vaccination - but those shots need to be given every six months. Crews at the National Institutes of Health are hammering-out a universal flu vaccine.
Imagine the flu virus looks like a lollipop. While the head mutates constantly, the base does so rarely. Experts attacked the base by dosing animals with a vaccine made from flu D-N-A.Then, another vaccine made from a weakened cold virus is added.This prime boost method may allow for the destruction of multiple flu strains.
In recent experiment with mice, ferrets and monkeys - Doctor Gary Nabel killed-off a flu virus from 2007 - and one from 1934.
For us, the vaccine is still years away. That means your best bet to beat the bug this year is to wash up and cover your mouth.
Clinical trials of this vaccine are now underway in humans. It could actually be commercially available in the next five years.
ONE FLU OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST: Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae (the influenza viruses), according to Influenza: Viral Infections [Mereck Manual Home Edition]. The most common symptoms of the disease are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness / fatigue and general discomfort. However, sore throat, fever and coughs are the most frequent symptoms. In more serious cases, influenza causes pneumonia, which can be fatal, particularly for the young and the elderly. Although it is often confused with other influenza-like illnesses, especially the common cold, the Lancet is quoted as saying that "influenza is a more severe disease than the common cold and is caused by a different type of virus." Influenza may produce nausea and vomiting, particularly in children, as stated in the book Season Flu vs. Stomach Flu, but these symptoms are more common in the unrelated gastroenteritis, which is sometimes called "stomach flu" or "24-hour flu".
PIGS STILL CAN'T FLY, BUT SWINE FLU: FluFacts.com, a comprehensive site with in-depth information regarding influenza, reports that in the U.S. alone, an estimated 25–50 million cases of the flu are currently reported each year — leading to 150,000 hospitalizations and 30,000–40,000 deaths yearly. If these figures were to be estimated incorporating the rest of the world, there would be an average of approximately 1 billion cases of flu, around 3–5 million cases of severe illness, and 300,000–500,000 deaths annually. Deaths of older adults account for more than 90% of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza.
THE ONE-SHOT-FITS ALL VACCINE: This vaccine could end the guessing game that now occurs at the beginning of each year as scientists decide which strains should be included in the seasonal vaccine for the following winter. Furthermore, it would make flu immunization practical for countries that now cannot afford a yearly effort. Unfortunately, a universal vaccine will not be ready soon enough to combat a possible pandemic from the new strain of swine flu that has already sickened thousands of people. The most advanced of the vaccines have been tested only in small clinical trials, as stated by Los Angeles Times. It is likely to take several more years to show if the vaccines really work. Indeed, the universal vaccines developed so far do not totally prevent infection, as the strain-specific vaccines can do. Rather, they limit severity and spread of the disease. It is also not clear if the vaccines would be able to provide protection against all strains, including animal-derived viruses like the new swine flu. New York Times adds that most of the universal vaccines under development do not even try to provide protection against influenza type B. They focus on type A, which tends to cause more severe disease and pandemics.
For More Information, Contact:
Anne A. Oplinger – Media Contact
National Institutes of Health
(Information provided by: Ivanhoe)
Copyright (c) 2010 The E. W. Scripps Company
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