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Pediatric flu-related deaths — highest since before COVID pandemic

With our focus on COVID-19, we forget about diseases like the flu and RSV. During this 2022-23 season, flu-related pediatric deaths have reached the highest level since before the pandemic started.

I know that there is a chunk of the population who thinks that flu is a minor disease not worthy of attention, but it kills. In years before the COVID-19 pandemic, in which masks, social distancing, and social isolation reduced the flu virus transmission, influenza regularly kills around 50,000 people annually in the USA alone.

Read More »Pediatric flu-related deaths — highest since before COVID pandemic
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Combination flu and COVID mRNA vaccine starting clinical trials

Pfizer and BioNTech have announced the start of a phase 1 clinical trial for a new mRNA vaccine that prevents both the flu and COVID-19. The new vaccine targets these two severe respiratory diseases with one jab.

Although during the past three years we have focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, the seasonal flu is also a dangerous disease. During the 2019-2020 flu season, the last one before COVID-19 mitigation efforts reduced the risk of flu, 390,000 Americans were hospitalized from the flu. And over 25,000 died.

So, a new mRNA vaccine (with all of its advantages to tailor the vaccine to the key antigens on the virus) that combines both flu and COVID-19 can be an effective weapon against these two diseases. In a couple of years, if all goes well, we will be able to get a season flu-COVID-19 mRNA vaccine that has been manufactured for the season’s prevalent variants of both diseases.

Let’s take a look at what we know about this new vaccine and the phase 1 clinical trial.

Read More »Combination flu and COVID mRNA vaccine starting clinical trials
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Quack cold and flu treatments — echinacea and Oscillococcinum are useless

It’s that time of year when we are bombarded by treatments for cold and flu season. The quackery includes things like “immune-boosting” miracle supplements to junk that “cures” every single virus known to medical science.

This article will attempt to debunk the myths of treatments for cold and flu such as “boosting the immune system,” magical supplements, and other nonsense involved with the world of cold and flu pseudoscience.

Of course, the best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine. And since the vaccine is free (at least in the USA), it’s infinitely cheaper than fake, useless cold and flu treatments.

Read More »Quack cold and flu treatments — echinacea and Oscillococcinum are useless
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Annual Mark Crislip rant about healthcare worker flu vaccine deniers

We’re entering the 2022-2023 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time for the annual epic Mark Crislip rant about healthcare worker flu vaccine deniers. For the past ten years at the start of the flu season, I reprint Dr. Mark Crislip‘s hysterical and outstanding rant about knucklehead healthcare workers who invent flu vaccine fallacies, tropes, and myths in an effort to justify their belief that the flu vaccine is dangerous, useless, or whatever else that hits their brain.

Dr. Crislip’s humorous compilation of these flu vaccine myths, which were originally published in A Budget of Dumb Asses 2011, describes the different types of vaccine-refusing healthcare workers. I resurrect this list every year at the beginning of the flu season not only for humor (because it is funny) but also to point the finger at flu vaccine deniers who also happen to be healthcare workers.

Any nurse, pharmacist, therapist, physician, or surgeon that refuses the flu vaccine by relying upon pseudoscientific nonsense about the vaccine rather than protecting their patients and themselves is appalling. I may be harsh, but maybe their employment ought to be terminated for their lack of concern about patients.

But the true adherents to the flu vaccine beliefs aren’t just healthcare workers. You know neighbors, friends, family, and even fellow vaccine supporters who refuse to get the flu vaccine. And they rely on the same ridiculous myths as healthcare workers.

These vaccine deniers believe that the flu vaccine is not necessary because the disease is not dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One last thing. You may be asking why I write “knucklehead,” instead of “dumbass” as Dr. Crislip writes, see Note 1.

Read More »Annual Mark Crislip rant about healthcare worker flu vaccine deniers
COVID-19 flu vaccines

Combined flu and COVID vaccines associated with mild reactions

A new study examined the incidence of mild reactions after individuals have received the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time. The researchers did not find anything to be of concern, but I always like to get ahead of a story and discuss it so I (and you) are prepared to deal with the inevitable anti-vaccine meme or trope.

Since COVID-19 cases will probably be increasing this fall (in fact, it’s already increasing), we will probably need another booster this fall. And that’s about the time most of us get our flu shot, so researchers wanted to know if there were any issues when getting both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines. Spoiler alert — not really.

Read More »Combined flu and COVID vaccines associated with mild reactions
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Flu vaccine linked to a 40% reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s disease

A new peer-reviewed study found that people who received at least one flu vaccine were 40% less like to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to non-vaccinated individuals. If this doesn’t convince you to run down to your local pharmacy or your physician to get the flu vaccine, I do not know what else to convince you.

As you know, I am a big proponent of the flu vaccine mainly because the disease it prevents is much more dangerous than most people seem to think. And during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic (yes, it’s still out there), getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccines are important.

Let’s dive into this paper to see if the data is convincing, and more than that, what potential mechanisms that may link the flu or flu vaccine to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Read More »Flu vaccine linked to a 40% reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s disease
flurona

“Flurona” — you need both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines

As I wrote before, this pandemic has given us a bunch of new terms, the newest one is “flurona” or contracting both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. It’s not a new disease, but it is worrisome since it could make our public health crisis worse.

This brief article will take a look at this flurona phenomenon and whether it’s something that requires concern.

Read More »“Flurona” — you need both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines
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The future of the COVID-19 pandemic — vaccines are still the key

We are heading towards the start of the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many people want to know what the future holds. Will there be more variants? Will we need more vaccines? Will there be more dumb ideas about the disease?

Well, I’m not a pseudoscientist, so I not only don’t make, but also I certainly don’t believe in predictions about the future course of the COVID-19 pandemic. But I think I can write down some science-based thoughts of what we might see over the next few months.

Read More »The future of the COVID-19 pandemic — vaccines are still the key
cold comfort cover cute

Virus treatments quackery – what not to take for flu, colds, or COVID-19

It’s that time of year when we are bombarded by virus treatments for everything from the flu and colds to COVID-19. The quackery includes things like “immune-boosting” miracle supplements to junk that “cures” every single virus known to medical science.

This article will attempt to debunk the myths of virus treatments such as “boosting the immune system,” magical supplements, and other nonsense involved with the world of flu treatment pseudoscience.

Of course, the best way to prevent the flu or COVID-19 is to get the vaccines. And since these vaccines are free, it’s infinitely cheaper than fake, useless virus treatments.

Read More »Virus treatments quackery – what not to take for flu, colds, or COVID-19
a sick man covering his mouth

Thanks to COVID-19, we beat the flu for the first time in history

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a horrible experience for the past two years, but it had one silver lining – beating the flu.

As I have written before, the annual rite of winter life, flu outbreaks, became almost nothing during the 2020-21 flu season. On average, the flu infects roughly 30 million Americans every year and kills over 30,000. Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that over 650,000 people die of respiratory illnesses related to the flu.

As with COVID-19, the elderly, the poor, and people of color are all overrepresented among the victims of the flu. Moreover, the annual economic cost of the flu in the USA averages nearly $90 billion.

Of course, things changed during the 2020-21 flu season. The US had only around 2,000 cases of the flu. No, that is not a typo, there were only 2,000 flu cases in the USA during the 2020-21 flu season. In other words, there were 17,000 times fewer flu cases than the 35 million cases during the 2019-2020 flu season.

During the 2019-20 flu season, 199 children died of the virus. In 2020-21, only one child died.

In fact, other respiratory viruses nearly disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic – respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza, rhinovirus, and adenovirus. I’ve been watching infectious diseases for decades, and this was truly amazing.

So how can we stop the flu once the COVID-19 pandemic is done? And that’s where it gets complicated.

Read More »Thanks to COVID-19, we beat the flu for the first time in history