Lecture – Forecasting seasonal outbreaks of influenza

Columbia University researcher Jeffrey Shaman, who studies environmental determinants of infectious disease transmission, will speak next month at the School of Public Health on “Forecasting Seasonal Outbreaks of Influenza”.

  • Date: Tuesday, Feb. 5
  • Time:  4-5:30
  • Location:  1690 SPH 1 (Lane Aud.)

Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program & the Center for Social Epidemiology & Public Health.

New CDC flu app!


The CDC has released a new app for clinicians and other health care professionals that let’s them find the CDC’s current influenza recommendations and influenza activity updates.  It’s available for Apple iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch.  The CDC Influenza App can be downloaded from the Apple App store.

The app lets you:

    • View updated information on national flu activity 
    • Find influenza vaccination recommendations endorsed by CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) 
    • Obtain information on diagnosis and treatment of influenza, including antiviral treatment recommendations by CDC and the ACIP 
    • Obtain information on laboratory testing for influenza 
    • Find CDC recommendations on influenza infection control 
    • View videos of CDC subject matter experts discussing influenza topics 
    • Order official CDC designed print products for posting in the workplace or distributing to patients. 

Details of Bird Flu Research Will Be Released

From the New York Times:

The full details of recent experiments that made a deadly flu virus more contagious will be published, despite recommendations by the United States government that some information be kept secret for safety reasons, an official of the World Health Organization said on Friday.

But a 60-day moratorium declared last month on both the research itself and its publication will be extended, probably for several months, according to Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the health organization’s assistant director general for health security and the environment. He spoke at a news conference in Geneva after a two-day meeting of 22 experts in flu and public health from various countries, who he said had had “intense discussions” about “urgent issues” related to the research.

Read the complete article here.

Closing schools to help control the flu

From the New York Times:

Canadian researchers have found compelling evidence that closing schools is an effective way to control flu epidemics.

Scientists at McMaster University in Ontario and elsewhere compared patterns of flu transmission with weather and school calendars in Alberta from April to December 2009. The study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found that transmission rates were linked to weather, but even more strongly to the closing of schools in the spring and their reopening in the fall.

“The effect of school closings was huge,” said David J. D. Earn, lead author of the study and a professor of mathematics at McMaster. “This is important because school closings, unlike weather, is something we can control.”

Read the complete article from the Times here; read the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine here.

More on censorship & the bird flu experiments

In case you didn’t keep up with this topic over the break, here are more articles from the New York Times on the continuing controversy over the request by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity that 2 journals not publish some details of the research done in the U.S. and the Netherlands on creating a highly transmissible form of the bird flu virus.

And here’s a story from Nature/News:  Call to censor flu studies draws fire.



Biomedical experiments & terrorism

From the New York Times, 2 articles on science and censorship.  Seeing Terror Risk, U.S. Asks Journals to Cut Flu Study Facts

For the first time ever, a government advisory board is asking scientific journals not to publish details of certain biomedical experiments, for fear that the information could be used by terrorists to create deadly viruses and touch off epidemics.”

In the experiments, conducted in the United States and the Netherlands, scientists created a highly transmissible form of a deadly flu virus that does not normally spread from person to person. It was an ominous step, because easy transmission can lead the virus to spread all over the world. The work was done in ferrets, which are considered a good model for predicting what flu viruses will do in people.

Security in Flu Study Was Paramount, Scientist Says:  An interview with Ron A. M. Fouchier, the lead researcher at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.