The Spanish Flu of 1918, which caused a pandemic, is estimated to have killed about 2% of the world population, a death toll greater than the military deaths of World War I and World War II combined. Though they obviously would have lacked the technology and healthcare to do much about it, was there any way that public health officials could have foreseen that global plague?

Yes, possibly, suggests a new paper in the journal Annals of Epidemiology. A mostly mild wave of influenza cases early in 1918 could have served as a herald of the doom to come later that year.

In the northern hemisphere,...

The one silver lining from this truly awful flu season is that the worst just might be over. 

Of the past 34 flu seasons, 20 peaked in February or March -- a fact that could make a certain groundhog's prognostications a bit more accurate. Recently released CDC data suggests that the 2017-2018 flu season has peaked this month.

The CDC monitors data collected from clinical labs all over the country. Patients who show up at clinics and hospitals with flu-like symptoms are often tested, and some of those results make their way to the CDC. It is important to note that this is not a "random sample" of Americans, like a political opinion poll. Instead, it's a biased...

Always question the headlines. They are often wrong. Here's a recent one from AOL News:

"Mom of 2 dies of the flu after deciding medication was too expensive." 

AOL News, 2/20/18

The message is clear. Had Heather Holland been able to afford the $116 copay for a box of Tamiflu, the flu that killed her would now be a thing of the past and she would probably be back to work. There is at least some implicit blame of the pharmaceutical industry as well. Just an ordinary story.

Except it's...

This flu season, one product is making its comeback: orange juice. Sales of OJ seem to have gotten a boost — after years of decline — due to consumers' fears of getting the dreaded illness. 

But is dosing yourself with high amounts of Vitamin C warranted for this year's flu from hell?










Flu season is well underway as anyone looking at the nightly news is aware. According to the CDC pneumonia and influenza mortality in this last period exceeds our epidemic threshold. Since October there have been nearly 9,000 laboratory-confirmed hospitalizations for influenza, the highest rate, among adults over age 65 (136.5/100,000 population); patients who frequently (75%) have other medical problems (co-morbidities). While the diagnosis of influenza seems kinda straight-forward based on these numbers, the reality is that physicians misdiagnose influenza a lot. But does it matter?

A study released in the last week looked at 1422 adult patients admitted for respiratory problems [1] to one academic and three community...

As this year’s influenza continues to take its toll, there are no concerns about adequate vaccination supplies, quite the contrary; the difficulty has been getting individuals vaccinated. Our current vaccination rate is around 38%. In the EU, the aggregate vaccination rate has been 41.8% with several countries vaccination rates approaching 70% or more. But the numbers of vaccinated people in other parts of the globe, specifically southeastern Asia, the eastern Mediterranean [1] and Africa are much less. What accounts for the disparities? Hint, it is not about money.


Groundhog Day, the greatest American tradition, happens every year on February 2nd, when several overly dressed gents pull a rodent out of a tree to predict the weather for the next six weeks. They've done this for 132 years.

Let that sink in. In the words of Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, "That's why the aliens won't talk to us."

Besides being a little strange, the Groundhog Day prediction isn't accurate. Well over 100 times, Phil saw his shadow and predicted more winter. His prognostications have provided little insight on what is to come in the following weeks, but at least Phil has confirmed that it's always sunny in Punxsutawney.

If the little...

The flu is the lead story on the evening news and on the front page of newspapers.

The flu is big news because it's bad this year. People all around the country are sick, and some are dying from the infection. For an explanation of why some people die very quickly see my colleague Josh Bloom's piece: This Year's Flu Is Different - It Kills In Two Ways.

And, it does not look like it's slowing down anytime soon. Check out the red line in the graph below - it represents this year's current cases and it is easy to see why people are nervous. 


This year's flu season is going to be bad. So far, at least 30 children have died from the flu.

But, as it turns out, influenza won't be bad just for humans; it will be bad for our canine companions, as well. According to news sources, canine influenza ("dog flu") has been reported in 46 states.

Dog flu is incredibly infectious. Though there is no "dog flu season," the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that nearly all dogs that are exposed to it will become infected, with 80% showing signs of illness. Symptoms in dogs are similar to those seen in humans: fatigue,...

How often do you hear a friend or colleague even stranger say, “I was sick with the flu?” It’s a refrain likely to occur each winter. Are they lying? No. Mistaken is more accurate.

Many believe certain illnesses are the flu that actually are not. For instance, there are well over a hundred different rhinoviruses that cause the common cold. That’s why you can get a few colds per season. Some are mild, others more severe. Each distinctly manifests in the respective host. If our resistance is down or we have other conditions or take certain medications, then we can be more at risk of contracting infectious diseases and experiencing them with greater severity.

This can be why one of us has a minor sniffle and another of us is in bed. And yet another acquires nothing. This...