A new study published in The Lancet calculated worldwide annual influenza deaths from surveillance data collected in 33 countries covering 57% of the world population for the years 1999 to 2015. The burden is greatest for poor regions and the elderly (especially those over age 75). Summaries of the findings were posted by the CDC and CIDRAP. A Commentary accompanying the paper in The Lancet suggests that a major roadblock to reducing the death toll is the low level of effectiveness of current vaccines, especially in the elderly.
Here in College Park, CATCH the Virus Study is working to provide new insights to help defend against influenza. If you live in the cluster of residence halls known as the Cambridge Community, and especially if you are a freshman in the STS, LS, or GPH Scholars program you too can help by participating in the study.
Data from CDC through last Friday (12/2) shows that the flu season has started. However, activity in DC and MD remains sporadic or just local outbreaks.
It is hard to know at this point early in the season just how much influenza-like illness there will be this winter. But, as you can see in the chart comparing 5 previous seasons, it looks like we are on course for a lot of flu. The good news in this weeks report from CDC is that 77% of influenza A viruses tested were a close match to the vaccine strain. The bad news is that 23% were from a newer clade of influenza A H3N2 viruses similar to those that caused a bad season in Australia during our summer. The vaccine is not perfect — but it’s all we’ve got. Hope you got yours … But in case you didn’t yet, it’s not too late!
Infants and pregnant women in low and middle income countries (LMICs) are at much higher risk of death and other severe outcomes from influenza infection than babies and pregnant women in high income countries. If you want the quick read — see this post at the University of Minnesota’s CIDRAP. The full journal articles are also linked there.
Check out the article about us in TERP magazine!
A preprint now available describes results from a study of 142 people from the UMD College Park campus community who were diagnosed with influenza in 2012-13. The average case shed about 38,000 viruses into airborne droplets every 30 minutes. Cases rarely sneezed and there was no association of sneezing with shedding virus. And, even though the more cases coughed the more virus they shed into very small droplets, cases who didn’t cough at all shed up to 1,000 viruses into airborne droplets in 30-min.
This earlier study paved the way for the C.A.T.C.H. – the virus study this year an last year’s Prometheus@UMD. These new studies will help us build a better understanding of how influenza and other respiratory viruses are transmitted, how to stay healthy, and how to build a healthier environment.
The full preprint is available from BioRxiv.
CATCH will be participating in the kick-off event of the UMD College Park Scholars 2017-2018 theme, “Going Viral” on Wednesday, September 27.
Beyond the Snot Study: Pandemic Flu, Sustainability, and Social Responsibility
A Conversation with Dr. Don Milton and Col. Matthew Hepburn
Wednesday, September 27, 7:00 PM
1205 Cambridge Community Center
Dr. Don Milton, leader of the C.A.T.C.H. the Virus Study research team and professor of environmental health in the School of Public Health, along with Col. Matthew Hepburn, the program manager in the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will be discussing their careers, their work on infectious diseases, and how the research happening on campus contributes to better ways to prevent the spread of respiratory infectious diseases.
They will also be providing more information about C.A.T.C.H. (Characterizing And Tracking College Health): The Virus Study, including a discussion of the larger social and scientific implications of the research.
All are invited to attend, and it should be a fascinating evening for anyone interested in a career in infectious disease, how we study them, or who has a general interest in the fields of virology, epidemiology and public health.
We had a great turn out to learn about the CATCH – the virus study last week at the Cambridge Community Block Party!
Jake, Barbara, Rhonda, and Jennifer were on hand to answer questions and provide general information about the study as we gear up to recruitment later in the fall. We were out giving away tasty treats to attract people to our table (who doesn’t love some free candy?!)
And we had lots of cool props, including some actual lab equipment and Giant Microbes. Here’s Jake demonstrating with the G2 cone:
Jake showing some interested students the G2 cone, used to collect respiratory exhalations.
Overall a great time, and hopefully lots of interested future participants! Stay tuned for more information!
Coming soon – C.A.T.C.H. the virus study!