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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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expert-perspectives

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-perspectives

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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research-and-clinical-trials

Research Snapshot: Confirming airborne transmission of influenza A virus in swine

It’s long been believed that, as in people, airborne transmission can be responsible for outbreaks of the flu virus in swine. Now, University of Minnesota researchers have helped shift such belief to scientifically-proven fact.

In a new study published today in the open-access online publication PLoS ONE, researchers from the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) document the detection and isolation of airborne flu virus at four acutely infected pig farms. Furthermore, they demonstrate the airborne nature of the virus by confirming the presence of virus in air samples from inside swine barns, at the barn’s external exhaust fans and downwind from the farms at distances up to 1.3 miles away.

The research should help improve the design of flu control strategies (such as biosecurity containment systems) and strengthen research into the prevention of zoonotic infections.

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in-the-news

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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in-the-news

H7N9: is there reason to fear this flu?

Earlier this week, most of the general public began to see the first news reports on H7N9, a new strain of bird flu currently seen in China.

Now, only a few days later, the news is spreading. But has the flu spread with it? Should the general public be concerned?

Let’s look at the H7N9 facts.

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