Surging flu cases may herald tough season in England

first_imgDec 24, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – While the US influenza season has started slowly, cases are surging in England, raising concern that the country could have its toughest season since 1999-2000.In England and Wales last week, about 68.5 people per 100,000 saw a general practitioner for influenza-like illness (ILI), a 73% increase over the 39.5 per 100,000 the week before, according to the latest weekly report from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). A BBC News report said the number also is73% higher than the same week a year ago.Dr. Douglas Fleming, director of the RCGP Research Unit in Birmingham, said the increase was significant, according to BBC News. “In the past 10 years, the only substantial outbreak was in 1999-2000,” he said. “I think we could be looking at something that approaches that this year.”The RCGP report says ILI visit rates of 30 to 100 per 100,000 population per week are “usual when influenza viruses are circulating,” rates above 100 are above average, and rates exceeding 200 are “exceptional.” The RCGP data are drawn from about 85 general practitioner clinics around the country, representing an at-risk population of about 840,000.ILI rates rose in all age-groups and regions in the week of Dec 15 to 21, the RCGP report says. The highest rates were seen among 15- to 44-year-olds, with 79.7 cases per 100,000, and 45- to 64-year-olds, with 75.6 cases. The 65-and-older group had 44.7 cases per 100,000, which was more than double the 18 cases seen the week before.The BBC report said experts believe the unusually cold weather might have contributed to the surge in cases.British public health officials define a flu epidemic as an ILI rate of 200 per 100,000, according to the BBC story. The last time that happened in England was in 1989-90, the report said.”That one caught everyone a bit off guard but there’s been a big push on flu vaccination since then,” virologist John Oxford of Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry in London told the BBC.Oxford and others quoted in the story urged people to get a flu shot if they haven’t done so yet.David Salisbury, director of immunization at the UK Department of Health, told the BBC, “We have had a very unusual run of winters with almost no flu, so we should not be surprised that here is a winter with more flu. It is very difficult to predict what makes the change winter to winter.”In contrast to the situation in England, flu activity in the United States has remained low so far this season, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued Dec 19. The report, for the week that ended Dec 13, said only three states—Texas, Virginia, and Hawaii—were reporting local flu activity. Thirty-six states reported sporadic cases and 11 states were reporting none.Google Flu Trends, a Web site that estimates US flu activity from the volume of Internet searches for flu information, currently shows “moderate” activity only in Hawaii, Maryland, and Virginia, with the rest of the country having low activity.See also: CDC flu surveillance updatehttp://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/Google Flu Trendshttp://www.google.org/flutrends/last_img read more

Canadian Badgers bring home gold

first_imgView Gallery (2 Photos)We’ve all heard about the Wisconsin women’s hockey players who represented the United States in the Olympics last year, but with six players who call Canada their home, USA hockey isn’t the only national organization taking notice of the Badgers.Over winter break, forwards Mallory Deluce and Carolyne Prevost, along with defensemen Brittany Haverstock and Stef McKeough, joined Team Canada’s under-22 team in the MLP Nations Cup.With Team Canada these four Badgers played against teams from Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and Russia. Not only were they playing against the other countries’ senior teams, they brought home the gold medal for the eighth time in the last nine years.“It was definitely a lot of fun,” McKeough said. “I mean every time you’re able to put on a Team Canada jersey it’s a privilege. Then when you come back here it’s a privilege to wear the Wisconsin one. I guess hard work always pays off. When your dreams, in a sense, are starting to come into reality, it’s a relief almost and it’s really exciting at the same time.”While all four have played for one of Canada’s national teams at some point, Deluce and Prevost each played in the MLP Cup a year ago with similar success.With two more Badgers on the roster this year, they were more than thrilled to share the experience.“Obviously it’s always an honor when you play for your own country,” Haverstock said. “It was awesome. When I found out I was really excited, and to get to play with some of the Badgers was an even better experience.”“It’s always a great honor to be a part of that team,” Prevost added. “It was good to have a chance to play three other of my teammates. It made it a lot more pleasant to be out there. A lot of the times we were out on the ice at the same time, there was a little Wisconsin line going on. It was really fun.”Through four games Prevost, McKeough and Deluce each netted a goal. While Prevost and McKeough ended the tournament with four points, Deluce had five.Regardless of their individual stats, the four Badgers were proud to help bring the gold back to Canada and show what women’s hockey is capable of.“It’s a good experience obviously to play against the best players from other countries,” Prevost said. “It was our under-22 team, and we’re playing against other countries senior teams. It tells a lot about the development of hockey. It’s really fun obviously to win the tournament. We’re just trying to get women’s hockey to develop, that’s pretty much the primary goal of the tournament. It’s coming along in a big way too.”“It means a lot,” Deluce added. “You really work hard, and to win gold is a big accomplishment for us.”Skating for Team Canada was an honor for the four Badgers, but they weren’t the only WCHA representatives. Jessica Wong from Duluth as well as Laura McIntosh and Natalie Spooner from Ohio State also represented the WCHA.Going from friends on one team to rivals on the next may not seem like the easiest transition, but it is simply a mutual understanding.“We definitely still talk during the year, but I think we’re all pretty competitive people and we know that when we step on the ice, it’s time to play hockey and put the friendships aside for awhile,” Haverstock said. “But we definitely continue them after the game.”Prevost also noted that despite the rivalries, they respect each other and know that it is just part of the world of hockey.“When you’re part of a team obviously you have set goals as a team. You focus on the task at hand with the team that you’re with. That’s what we all try to do,” she said. “There’s different players from college teams that we play here and there’s rivalries when we play each other, but when it comes down to it, when we’re playing for Team Canada, we’re all a team. We respect each other and have fun.”Having fun and representing your country is really what it’s all about. “Anytime I play hockey I have fun,” McKeough said. “When you’re there it’s just another step, and it really pushes you to try to prove to the rest of the players who you are and where you come from. Then again you also see how hard everyone else works so it’s doubly motivating in a sense.”last_img read more