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PostSubject: Is the US facing Flu-maggedon?   Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:21 am

Flu season has come early to the US this winter, and hospitals in many cities are overwhelmed by the surge in cases. Boston has declared a public health emergency, and Google Flu Trends, which monitors the prevalence of certain search terms to track the disease, shows the US topping the world. Ominous news coverage shows emergency rooms overflowing. Just how worried should we be?

What is going on?
The flu season in the northern hemisphere falls anytime between October and May, but usually peaks in February. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, flu activity in the US started picking up in November and hit its stride in December, but that is hardly unprecedented – in 2010 the UK's flu season started in December.

Last year's US flu season, which started in March, was very mild. This year, the viruses are largely the same, although according to the CDC their prevalence is different – a strain that was common last season is rare this time around, for example. However, the disease they cause seems no worse – both this year and last, around 8 per 100,000 cases are severe enough to need hospitalisation, although this year's figures might be affected by a time lag in reporting hospitalised cases, says Lone Simonsen of George Washington University – who is down with flu.

read more: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23069-is-the-us-facing-flumaggedon.html

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