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In the News: Michael Osterholm gives perspective on 2014 outbreaks

As 2014 came to an end, health officials named the last 12 months as some of the busiest for public health workers in the last decade. There were many widespread outbreaks including Enterovirus D-68, MERS, measles and Ebola, which plagued nations around the world. The spread and damage of those viruses raised concerns, and brought disease preparedness to the forefront of the health care industry.

Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., M.P.H., a disease specialist with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy told the Science Times, “I think what we really hit is a new normal.” Osterholm believes that health concerns could worsen in the years to come.

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In the News: U of M researcher defends bacteria zapping in foods

Did you know the Federal Food and Drug Administration has approved using nuclear energy to wipe out bacteria in dozens of foods?

If your answer is no, you’re not alone.  The process – known as irradiation – has gained support from public health officials and scientists but the public has yet to catch on.

Irradiation involves the use of radiation to wipe out pathogens in dozens of food products including oysters and imported fruits. In fact, it’s been used in other developed countries for decades without reports of human harm.

But for many, the thought of injecting food with radiation sounds like something out of a science fiction movie…

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A step ahead in the walk back to the origins of SARS

Being linked to any number of things, including vampires and rabies, bats have always had a public relations problem.

Now, even close to Halloween, bats still can’t catch a break. Researchers may have definitively linked the mammals to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

In 2002, a previously unknown airborne coronavirus generated worldwide panic when it sickened more than 8,000 people in 33 countries, causing more than 700 deaths before disappearing.

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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: Solving a Viral Mystery

In September, we posted the first Health Talk piece dedicated to MERS, or what was then described as “a new SARS-like illness that has been confirmed in two people thus far.”

At that time, the message from most experts was simple: we need to know more, and we need to anticipate the next steps of the virus.

Since the first cases of MERS were reported, the virus has sickened 77 people, killing 40 of them according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And many initial questions have been answered, such as how the virus spreads.

But one question remains: where did MERS come from?

Yesterday, New York Times writer Denise Grady published a story that highlighted the search for the origin of MERS. It’s an interesting read and does a good job of profiling the unique challenges of diseases that originate in animals before making the “jump” to humans.

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