By email from MJM, December US flu prevalence over the past 3 years (click to enlarge):
The figures are apparently from CDC, but MJM provided no link. Anyway, flu epidemics seem to be getting worse (i.e. more widespread) every year. MJM says they usually fade out by some time in March. His advice:
Get your flu shots and STAY HOME whenever you can the next few weeks or it looks like there’s a good chance you’ll end up with the flu this year.
I won’t be getting a flu shot because a) I don’t believe it’s possible to immunise against a constantly changing virus, and b) I think you’re more likely to get some bug by visiting a doctor’s surgery than you are likely to be prevented from getting one, and c) my faith in the medical profession (and in particular anyone who works in Public Health) is in free fall.
I think I’m just going to stay home. I mostly do anyway. I’m probably one of the most isolated people in the UK, thanks to the smoking ban. I won’t be visiting any pubs or restaurants or other social venues before March.
And then there’s Aussie flu:
The Aussie Flu is believed to be gripping the UK amid fears it will be the worst outbreak in 50 years.
In the last seven days alone 1,111 people have been hit by flu – a shocking increase of 156%.
And experts believe this suggests the killer strain, called H3N2, has arrived.
The Royal Liverpool is among Britain’s hospitals which has seen a sudden hike in flu admissions.
I’m not sure whether this is a different strain from the flu that seems to be sweeping the USA.
Why is ‘flu getting worse?
A key factor seems to be that the flu vaccine has been less effective than expected this year.
Preliminary data suggests it offered only 15 to 20 per cent protection, Professor Collignon says.
This means as many as 85 per cent of people who were vaccinated and then exposed to the virus still got infected.
“For whatever reason, the vaccine has been very ineffective this year….”
“We really need a better vaccine. We need a different design of vaccine that … gives us protection for the next five or 10 years, no matter what strains come.”
Fat chance of that happening while Public Health remains fixated on eating, drinking, and smoking.
One thing that puzzles me is that there seem to be distinct multiple flu seasons.
in tropical regions of Australia there tends to be two flu seasons a year
Why should diseases have seasons? In Australia it seems the peak flu season is August. In the northern hemisphere it’s January. Is it temperature-related?
The question of seasonality is especially interesting because we still don’t understand why flu exhibits such a strong seasonal pattern (many hypotheses have been advanced but there is still no agreement). Managua is warm, with a fairly constant temperature between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius. In temperate climates flu season takes place mostly with temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius and low absolute humidity. But in the two years of this study flu peaked in June and July each year, the middle of the rainy season (May to November). Furthermore, this paper also showed a peak in the November – December months during one (2006) but not the other of the two years.
Maybe it’s an astronomical thing, and whichever region of the Earth that is furthest from the Sun is the most likely to have flu epidemics as viruses rain down from deep space? Guardian 2000:
Dismissing as dogma the conventional medical wisdom that flu is a virus passed by human contact, the distinguished astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle, and his colleague at Cardiff university, Chandra Wickramasinghe, warn that we may be on the brink of a global epidemic.
In a report to be published in the journal Current Science, they claim the outbreak was caused by dust deposited high in the atmosphere by passing comets being forced down to earth by energy generated by cooler patches on the sun’s surface, known as sunspots.
They reach the peak of their activity, the maxima, every 11 years, coinciding, the scientists say, with all major flu outbreaks since 1761, including the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic blamed for 20m deaths worldwide. The latest cycle began to peak in September and the maxima is due sometime this year.
We seem to be nearer to a sunspot minimum than a sunspot maximum right now.
The current flu epidemic is probably being hyped by Public Health anyway.