Middle-Aged Americans Hit Hardest By This Year’s Flu

Middle-Aged Americans Hit Hardest By This Year’s Flu

Weather forecasts this winter have brought plenty of bad news. Today brings similarly disappointing news on the flu front. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their interim estimates for this year’s flu season, and those being hit the hardest aren’t who you’d expect.

Normally, flu most strongly affects those on the ends of the age spectrum: those under 4 years old and over 65. But so far in the 2013-2014 season, the greatest number of cases—and the greatest number of deaths from flu—fall into the young and middle-aged categories, the people often assumed to be the healthiest and heartiest. Some 61 percent of hospitalizations for influenza this season have been people between the ages of 18 and 64, up from 35 percent last season. The story is similar among deaths from flu: a surprising 60 percent occurred in the middle-age categories, up from last season’s 18 percent.

H1N1 Strikes Again

The trouble, it seems, is the particular strain of flu this season.

The predominant influenza virus circulating in recent months has been the notorious H1N1. Back in 2009, this virus (then called swine flu influenza A) made its presence quickly and painfully known. It started with a single case in a 10-year-old Californian girl, and spread from there. By June, cases had been reported in 70 countries and the World Health Organization declared the disease a pandemic. The U.S. was hit the hardest, with cases in all 50 of the United States and its territories.

While the H1N1 virus has been in circulation since then, this appears to be its first notable flare up. And in 2009, as in our current 2013-2014 season, a surprisingly large percentage of cases occurred in the young and middle-age categories.

Get Your Flu Shot!

With the help of vaccines, this year’s prospects don’t look nearly so grim. The CDC followed up with more than 2,000 people showing flu-like symptoms between December 2013 and January 2014, and found that the risk of influenza requiring a doctor’s visit was reduced in vaccinated individuals by about 61 percent versus those who didn’t get the vaccine.

Flu season isn’t over yet, though. The CDC anticipates weeks of influenza yet to come, and points out that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

Source: discover magazine

About 7 Million Americans Have New Hips, Knees

It’s not just grandma with a new hip and your uncle with a new knee. More than 2 of every 100 Americans now have an artificial joint, doctors are reporting.

Among those over 50, it’s even more common: Five percent have replaced a knee and more than 2 percent, a hip.

“They are remarkable numbers,” said Dr. Daniel J. Berry, chairman of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic. Roughly 7 million people in the United States are living with a total hip or knee replacement.

He led the first major study to estimate how prevalent these procedures have become, using federal databases on surgeries and life expectancy trends. Results were reported Tuesday at an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons conference in New Orleans.

More than 600,000 knees and about 400,000 hips are replaced in the U.S. each year. But until now, there haven’t been good numbers on how many people currently are living with new joints. The number is expected to grow as the population ages, raising questions about cost, how long the new parts will last, and how best to replace the replacements as they wear out over time.

The term “replacement” is a little misleading, said Dr. Joshua Jacobs, chairman of orthopedic surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and president of the orthopedic surgery association. What’s replaced is the surface of a joint after cartilage has worn away, leaving bone rubbing against bone and causing pain and less mobility.

In a replacement operation, the ends of bones are removed or resurfaced and replaced with plastic, ceramic or metal materials.

Arthritis is the main reason for these operations, followed by obesity, which adds stress on knees and hips. Baby boomers are wearing out joints by playing sports and doing other activities to avoid obesity. Knee replacement surgeries have more than tripled in the 45-to-64 age group over the last decade and nearly half of hip replacements now are in people under 65, federal numbers show.

Source: NBC news