HEALTH

Study: Colder days may contribute to more virulent flu season

BY Michael Johnsen

BETHESDA, Md. — Global warming could spell the end of flu seasons, research released Friday by the National Institution of Health suggests, because the influenza virus better propagates and is more sustainable in colder climates. 

Two types of environmental conditions — cold-dry and humid-rainy — are associated with seasonal influenza epidemics, according to an epidemiological study released Friday that was led by researchers at the NIH’s Fogarty International Center. The paper, published in PLoS Pathogens, presents a simple climate-based model that maps influenza activity globally and accounts for the diverse range of seasonal patterns observed across temperate, subtropical and tropical regions.

After assessing the role of local climatic variables on virus seasonality in a global sample of study sites, Viboud and her colleagues found that temperature and specific humidity were the best individual predictors of the months of maximum influenza activity, known as influenza peaks. The team discovered that in temperate regions, influenza was more common one month after periods of minimum specific humidity. These periods happen to coincide with months of lowest temperature. In contrast, sites that maintained high levels of specific humidity and temperature were generally characterized by influenza epidemics during the most humid and rainy months of the year. “The models we used predicted the timing of peak influenza activity with 75% to 87% accuracy,” stated Cecile Viboud, who headed the study.

Data from animal studies indicate low temperature and humidity increase the duration of the virus’s reproduction and expulsion in infected organisms and virus stability in the environment, increasing the probability of transmission through coughing, sneezing or breathing. In contrast, high temperature seems to block airborne transmission.

Human influenza infections exhibit a strong seasonal cycle in temperate regions, and laboratory experiments suggest that low specific humidity facilitates the airborne survival and transmission of the virus in temperate regions. Specific humidity is the ratio of water vapor to dry air in a particular body of air while relative humidity — commonly used in weather forecasts — is the amount of water vapor in the air relative to its capacity to hold water vapor, and is primarily a function of temperature.

According to James Tamerius, a geographer at Columbia University and the first author of the study, the effect of low specific humidity on influenza could cause annual winter epidemics in temperate areas. “However, this relationship is unlikely to account for the epidemiology of influenza in tropical and subtropical regions where epidemics often occur during the rainy season or transmit year-round without a well-defined season,” he said.

The findings could be used to improve existing current influenza transmission models, and could help target surveillance efforts and optimize the timing of seasonal vaccine delivery, according Viboud. “The model could have a broader application, encouraging researchers to analyze the association between climatic patterns and infectious disease across a wide range of diseases and latitudes,” Viboud said.


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Nelsons launches Rescue Pearls for stress relief

BY Michael Johnsen

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Nelsons on Thursday launched Rescue Pearls, dissolvable gel capsules that provide relief from daily stress. Each pearl releases one dose of Rescue Remedy. 

"Consumers, both loyal Rescue users and those new to the brand, immediately responded to the convenience of Rescue Gum and Pastilles, and they quickly became our most popular items," stated Katrina Eichenfeldt, Rescue Remedy senior brand manager. "Building on that feedback, we conducted consumer research to gain a better understanding of how consumers want to take Rescue and Pearls was the clear winner." added Eichenfeldt.


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Morton Salt makes entry into Epsom salt category

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — Morton Salt on Thursday introduced a new line of Natural Epsom salt products, marking its first foray into the health and beauty category.

"The Epsom salt category has seen sustained growth over the past few years, presenting an opportunity for Morton Salt to begin leveraging its ubiquitous brand equity with the health and beauty shopper," stated Carol Panozzo, VP consumer products sales and marketing at Morton Salt.

Morton’s new Epsom salt line includes four core products, which are unique in that they are made with natural magnesium sulfate.

Morton Natural Epsom salt (plain) serves the functional need of soothing minor aches and sprains when soaking in a bath of hot water and Morton Epsom salt. 

Morton Natural Epsom salt with lavender or eucalyptus fragrances offers a sensory experience that can help promote relaxation while soothing minor aches and sprains. Morton Natural Epsom salt with lavender scent offers calming properties that may help to encourage a restful sleep, while Morton Natural Epsom salt with eucalyptus scent helps to relax the senses and relieve tension.

The line also includes a lotion containing Morton Natural Epsom salt. 

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