Virulent, long flu season finally over
It’s a wrap. This past week influenza activity in the United States continued to decrease and is now below the national baseline for the first time since late November, according to the latest FluView report from the Centeres for Disease Control and Prevention. This season will go into the record books as one of the most virulent and longest seasons this century, the agency said.
Influenza-like illness incidences dropped from 2.5% reported last week to 2.1% for the week ended April 7. The CDC said that current data indicate that the 2017-2018 flu season peaked at 7.5% in early February. You’d have to go back all the way to the 2003/2004 influenza season to find a more virulent season. That year, illness rates crested at 7.6%.
This year, illness rates for the 2017/2018 flu season were above the national baseline for 19 consecutive weeks. Only two seasons in the past 10 years have lasted nearly as long — ILI activity for both the 2016/2017 flu season and the 2012/2013 flu season tracked above the 2.2% baseline for a total of 17 weeks.
However, the agency said flu season is not over for everybody, as seven states continue to report widespread flu activity and two states continue to experience high ILI activity.
Hospitalization rates this season also have been record-breaking, exceeding end-of-season hospitalization rates for 2014-2015, a high severity, H3N2-predominant season, the CDC said.
Researchers discover how to make flu shots more effective
Researchers have identified a way that might make future flu shots more effective, according to a paper published last week in the journal Cell.
According to the paper, influenza vaccines that better target the surface protein called neuraminidase, which represent the red inserts in the picture above, could offer broad protection against various influenza virus strains and lessen the severity of illness. Current seasonal influenza vaccines mainly target a different, more abundant influenza surface protein called hemagglutinin – the blue inserts in the photo.
For now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people get their flu shots without regard to preliminary vaccine effectiveness estimates. Early estimates of vaccine effectiveness for this past season was reported to be 25% against the season’s predominant influenza A H3N2 virus, according to the CDC. “The interim estimate of 25% VE against A(H3N2) viruses this season indicates that vaccination provided some protection,” the CDC noted. “With interim VE estimates of 67% and 42% against influenza A(H1N1) and B viruses, respectively, vaccination provided substantial protection against circulating A(H1N1) viruses, as well as moderate protection against influenza B viruses predominantly belonging to the B/Yamagata lineage, the second influenza type B component included in quadrivalent vaccines.”
The new research builds on previous studies of NA and was conducted by a team of scientists including investigators from the Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance program, which is organized and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.
McKeon Products names new VP marketing
McKeon Products has named Ann Springhetti as its new vice president of marketing. Springhetti, a Michigan native, a nearly three-decade track record of success in managing a variety of consumer products to the Warren, Mich.-based company.
“McKeon Products has a deep family-owned heritage of providing quality solutions for consumer health needs,” Springhetti said. “Their industry leadership in hearing protection has provided a platform to grow into other healthcare solutions and their product pipeline is impressively rich.”
Springhetti has experience in a diverse range of industries and has held roles in product innovation/management, brand management, retail marketing, retail buying and sales. Her accomplishments include numerous brand launches, creative product development and collaborative team development, McKeon Products said.
McKeon Products has supplied consumers with a full range of consumer hearing protection products for over 55 years with its Mack’s brand, which is one of the best-selling ear care brands in the United States.