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Research Snapshot: Modeling how the flu moves through pig farms

Humans aren’t the only ones who can contract the flu.

Influenza A viruses can also affect pigs and their piglets, which is why, just like in human populations, pig populations are commonly vaccinated against the flu.

Last week, University of Minnesota researchers published a new model addressing how swine producers approach vaccinating their pigs.

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Seven flu myths, debunked

Editor’s note: this article originally appeared on the University of Minnesota Physicians web site last week.

You’ve heard them all before.

The flu vaccine can make you sick. Don’t bother getting the shot if you’re young and healthy. Pregnant women should avoid the flu vaccine.

Simply Googling the word “flu” turns up a bevy of tips and advice for staying healthy. But how do you separate the good information from the bad?

Here to help you debunk some of the common myths or misconceptions around influenza and the flu vaccine is Susan Kline, MD, who specializes in infectious diseases and serves as the infection control medical director for the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

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Could a universal flu vaccine become a reality in the near future?

In a recent study out of Great Britain, researchers discovered a key that might unlock a universal flu vaccine: blood.

Not just any blood, though. The researchers said the answer to what they call a universal flu vaccine may be in the blood of those who became infected with the H1N1 strain of influenza present during the 2009 influenza pandemic, but who beat the strain without getting sick.

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Expert Perspective: When should you get your flu shot?

As the weather across much of the country shifts to the breezy, cooler days of fall, many people have started to consider getting their annual flu shot. For many, the decision of when to get the shot is prompted by reminders at the workplace or from insurance providers.

But is getting the shot earlier in the season necessarily better? Or should you wait until the flu actually arrives before getting a shot, given that recent research has shown the vaccine’s effectiveness can lag after three months.

WCCO recently tackled this subject in a Good Question segment, and found the answer around ideal flu shot timing isn’t necessarily unanimous among flu experts.

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Health Talk Recommends: A more transparent battle with bird flu

Imagine a virus that could infect — and jump to and from — birds or mammals that is always adapting and changing, so by the time researchers have an answer for one strain, it’s already changed forms.

The virus, of course, is influenza.

In an editorial in the Washington Post, the editorial board explores H7N9, the most recent strain of avian influenza (bird flu). The board writes:

“This variant, known as H7N9, has not reached U.S. shores, but it is a reminder of the unpredictable nature of influenza. It might cause a pandemic, or settle into a slow burn for years, or simply die out. At this stage, no one knows. The uncertainty ought to remind us of past lessons about infectious disease and globalization, which remain as urgent as ever.”

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The Politics of Poultry

David Fenley is a research assistant at the National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD) and student in the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. This post first appeared on the NCFPD’s Blog

At the National Center for Food Protection and Defense we aim to anticipate food system disruptions before they become just that, disruptions.

While markets around the world react to the Chinese H7N9 bird flu scare and poultry is slaughtered by the tens of thousands in an attempt to contain its further spread, the United States might not have too much cause for concern.

The flu virus is not easily spread from person-to-person and the U.S. does not currently import Chinese poultry for human consumption. Pet food, on the other hand, is imported and has a history of harming our furry friends.

In the past decade, U.S. trade relations with China have improved immensely, but there are still many points of contention, poultry being one of them.

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