Flu Season Is Already Off to a Bad Start

Dec 8, 2017

By Rachael Rettner

Flu season is underway in the United States, and a new report shows that flu activity is already higher than typical for this time of year.

During the week that ended Nov. 25 (the most recent period for which data is available), three Southern states — Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina — reported high levels of flu activity; one state (Georgia) reported moderate flu activity, and the rest reported either low or minimal flu activity, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At this same time last year, no states were reporting high levels of flu activity.

The new CDC report, published Dec. 7, also said that during the week of Thanksgiving, the percentage of people visiting the doctor for flu-like illness was 2.3 percent, which is slightly above the “national baseline” for flu visits — the threshold for what’s typically seen in the off-season — which is 2.2 percent. At this time last year, the percentage of people visiting the doctor for flu-like illness was only 1.9 percent.

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7 comments on “Flu Season Is Already Off to a Bad Start

  • The fact that the flu vaccine covers only 40% of active flu viruses (on some favorable accounts) and as little as 10% on others, coupled with the fact that generally ~ >2% of the population ever goes to the doctor with symptoms (according to this report) makes it seem like one of the less efficacious “insurance policies” we have in the vaccine world (which I wholly support lest I be misinterpreted). I may or may not have had the flu at some point in the last 10-15 years. If I did it bothered me for a day or two (or three) and then got over it. I do realize the efficacy in the very young and the very old still getting this though.

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  • I thought it was mostly for the very old and/or those with pulmonary issues.

    My mother, who has very bad asthma, and is elderly, just had it – although she has resisted the flu shot for years. She’s had a stiff and painful neck for days – since the shot. Mobility slowly returning.

    She insisted: without Mercury. No one should put Mercury in their body. Agreed? It doesn’t belong there.

    Q: is there any merit to the argument that the flu shot actually lowers one’s immunity?

    Glad it was the cat. Good to hear from you, my witty literate, and knowledgable friend. Happy Holidays.

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  • Hi Dan. Yes, me too (the cat). Regarding “mercury” (in the form of thiomersal), this is no longer used in (most) vaccines and hasn’t been for some time, even though there was nothing near a consensus in the scientific community (see link).

    My learned but non expert opinion is that the flu shot should not lower your immunity. I’m not sure what mechanism would lower it in the case of immunization. In terms of contracting the flu normally some modeling of infectious diseases suggest that herd immunity would confer some benefit. I think the best bet is to stay as healthy as possible and that if you have some reasons for concern (age, infirmity, etc) I would get the vaccination, with no worry of “mercury” concerns.

    Nice to hear from you as well. Don’t get ill over the political climate (easy for me to say). I follow it as closely as you and others and I have a feeling that the tide is turning. From my mouth to dogs ears, no? 😉 Happy Holidays to you as well.



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  • Dan #2
    Dec 11, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    She insisted: without Mercury.
    No one should put Mercury in their body. Agreed? It doesn’t belong there.

    Actually the microscopic trace of mercury in the thiomersal vaccines preservative was harmless, and in any ase its use was discontinued years ago! The song and dance about it was hyped anti-vaxxer pseudo-science!

    Unfortunately, many Americans do get significant doses of the harmful form of mercury in their air, drinking water, and fish, thanks to air and water pollution from coal-burning power plants.
    However anti-vaxxers/pseudo-scientists will be pleased to know that Trump is following the ducking, diving, and prevarication, of previous Republican pollution supporting stooges, removing or obstructing environmental pollution regulations so Americans should now be enjoying higher mercury doses along with everyone else who lives down wind of a power-plant!


    U.S. high court topples controversial mercury pollution regulations Jun. 29, 2015

    Long-delayed action on the health risks of mercury produced by U.S. coal power plants will have to wait even longer, as the Supreme Court decided today that federal authorities failed to properly weigh the benefits of regulation against the costs.

    Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the opinion for a 5-4 majority, said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted unreasonably when it deemed cost “irrelevant” to the question of whether or not to regulate hazardous power plant pollution.

    The decision blocks enforcement of rules that just went into effect this past April after decades of study, lawsuits, and political wrangling through four administrations.

    The 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, with an estimated price tag of $9.6 billion, was one of the most expensive regulations EPA ever issued, according to the Congressional Research Service.
    EPA, however, concluded that the rule’s health benefits outweighed the costs.
    Agency analysts concluded cutting emissions of the toxin would result in 130,000 fewer asthma attacks, 4700 fewer heart attacks, and 11,000 fewer premature deaths each year, adding up to at least $37 billion to $90 billion annually.


    Mercury is a highly potent neurotoxin that adversely affects the function and development of the central nervous system in both people and wildlife.
    Exposure to mercury is particularly dangerous for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as children, since mercury is most harmful in the early stages of development.
    In the U.S., 1 in 6 women of childbearing age (15-44) has blood mercury levels that exceed those considered safe by the EPA for a developing baby.
    This amounts to approximately 630,000 babies born every year at risk of developmental problems because of prenatal mercury exposure.

    According to the Center for Disease Control, health effects linked to prenatal and childhood methylmercury exposure include problems with language, memory, attention, visual skills, and lower IQs.

    As a result of these risks, the Food and Drug
    Administration (FDA) advises small children and women
    who are pregnant not to eat shark, swordfish, king
    mackerel, or tilefish because these fish are highly
    contaminated with mercury, and to eat at most two
    meals a week of popular seafood containing lower
    levels of mercury such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
    Additionally, state health departments issue separate warnings for recreationally caught fish (see Table 2). Since 2006, the number of fish
    consumption advisories resulting from mercury
    contamination has increased from 3,080 to 3,361 in 2008.

    But hey! Repub judges and Trumpies can’t go upsetting the Koches and the coal industry – so blame it on the vaccines – even when vaccines no longer use even harmless mercury preservatives at all! 🙂

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  • Just one more thing about mercury. I had a physical in May. My doctor asked me if I wanted a flu shot. (I said no.) I asked him if the shot has mercury in it. And he said yes. You can request no mercury, he said, but it’s more expensive. In other words, the flu shot has mercury – unless you go out of your way to get the shot without it. Isn’t there a consensus that mercury is basically not good for the body and is, in general, something to be avoided?

    I’m not talking about autism. Just mercury. I don’t know about thiormersol. The flu shot has mercury; and mercury is not good for one. True or false?


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  • Flu Season Is Already Off to a Bad Start

    Let’s hope that there are no Trumpiod supervisory panel science appointments to make the next one even worse!


    The US government has lifted a three-year ban on making lethal viruses in the lab, saying the potential benefits of disease preparedness outweigh the risks.

    Labs will now be able to manufacture strains of influenza, Sars and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers).

    The ban was imposed following safety breaches at federal institutions involving anthrax and avian flu.

    Now a scientific review panel will have to green-light each research proposal.

    It will only be allowed to go ahead if the panel determines there is no safer way to conduct the research and that the benefits it will provide justify the risk.

    Critics say such “gain-of-function” research still risks creating an accidental pandemic.

    But supporters of removing the ban say many US states are poorly prepared for an almost-inevitable outbreak of a deadly virus.

    “I believe nature is the ultimate bioterrorist and we need to do all we can to stay one step ahead,” said Samuel Stanley, chairman of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which provided guidance on the new policy.

    “Basic research on these agents by laboratories that have shown they can do this work safely is key to global security.”

    The ban was imposed in 2014 after embarrassing safety lapses including:

    Dozens of workers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) being exposed to anthrax bacteria
    Long forgotten vials of smallpox left in a cardboard box being discovered at a research centre near Washington

    In addition, there was concern that research into transmissible pathogens, which is published, could be used to deliberately engineer a mutant virus.

    The goal is to implement “a rigorous process that we really want to be sure we’re doing right”, NIH director Francis Collins told reporters.

    Many scientists have applauded the move, saying that over recent years federal and state preparedness for a pandemic has worsened, with cuts in funding a significant factor.

    But Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, told Nature journal that gain-of-function experiments “have done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics – yet they risked creating an accidental pandemic”.

    However, he added that if they were to be carried out, he welcomed the extra level of review.

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