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Nobody knows precisely why we are much more likely to catch the flu in the winter months than at other times of the year.
Perhaps it’s because flu viruses flourish in cool temperatures and are killed by exposure to sunlight.
But what if everything we think we know about fighting influenza is wrong?
What if flu vaccines do not protect people from dying—particularly the elderly, who account for 90 percent of deaths from seasonal flu? government—with the support of leaders in the public-health and medical communities—has put its faith in the power of vaccines and antiviral drugs to limit the spread and lethality of swine flu.
which dates back to the Middle Ages, is taken from the Italian word for occult or astral influence.
Then as now, flu seemed to appear out of nowhere each winter, debilitating or killing large numbers of people, only to vanish in the spring.
But precisely how deadly, or even how infectious, this year’s H1N1 pandemic will turn out to be won’t be known until it’s over.
Most reports coming from the Southern Hemisphere in late August (the end of winter there) suggested that the swine flu is highly infectious, but not particularly lethal.
Yet the flu, in many important respects, remains mysterious.
Whether this season’s swine flu turns out to be deadly or mild, most experts agree that it’s only a matter of time before we’re hit by a truly devastating flu pandemic—one that might kill more people worldwide than have died of the plague and combined. S., the main lines of defense are pharmaceutical—vaccines and antiviral drugs to limit the spread of flu and prevent people from dying from it.
Yet now some flu experts are challenging the medical orthodoxy and arguing that for those most in need of protection, flu shots and antiviral drugs may provide little to none.
In the most ambitious vaccination program the nation has mounted since the anti-polio campaign in the 1950s, the federal government has commissioned Med Immune and four other companies to produce enough vaccine to cover the entire U. The CDC has recommended that some 159 million adults and children receive either a swine flu shot or a dose of Med Immune’s nasal vaccine this year.
Shots are offered in doctors’ offices, hospitals, airports, pharmacies, schools, polling places, shopping malls, and big-box stores like Wal-Mart.
For example, Australian officials estimated they would finish winter with under 1,000 swine flu deaths—fewer than the usual 1,500 to 3,000 from seasonal flu. S., about 70 percent were already suffering from congenital conditions like cerebral palsy or underlying illnesses such as cancer, asthma, or Public-health officials consider vaccine their most formidable defense against the pandemic—indeed, against any flu—and on the surface, their faith seems justified.