Predicting 2014’s Flu
Flu prediction is hardly an exact science. In fact it could be accused of being little more than a loose amalgam of computer modeling, blind luck, and gut instinct. In other words, cross your fingers.
As this article describes, the scientific community has a fairly poor track record of predicting which flu strains will rise in the coming year, or even which existing flus will manage to evade vaccination:
Today, the situation isn’t much better. Predicting what flu has in store continues to be nearly impossible even though research has identified some commonalities. There are only a few circulating strains such as H3N2, B, H1N1 and H1N1pdm (the ‘swine flu’ strain), and only a handful of areas in the flu genome have been described as hot spots of concern. Yet forecasting every change simply cannot be done leaving public health officials, vaccine manufacturers, epidemiologists and surveillance experts with no other choice than to make their best guesstimate.
So that’s the bad news. The good news is that we have never seen a recurrence of the 1918 flu epidemic that wiped out tens of millions of people. Although influenza is a crafty virus, it seems that many human immune systems are up to the task of staving off each year’s onslaught. But make no mistake: this is an arms race, and it’s never quite clear who will pull ahead in any given year.
The best advice remains the simplest:
In the meantime, the public can do its part to prepare for the unveiling of flu’s New Year’s Evolution by making their own New Year’s Resolution to act more hygienically and adopting good health habits. Even if there was no threat from the flu, these ideas are excellent to improve overall health and happiness. But more importantly, while these actions may not entirely protect individuals from infection, they will go a long way in reducing spread. Moreover, it may even help to prevent the millions of exercise avowers from using illness as an excuse to avoid the gym.