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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Seasonal Flu Update – 2: 02/04/2013

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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It remains a challenging seasonal flu season with recent reports suggesting cases are extensive throughout most U.S. states — with activity increasing in the mid-Atlantic, Southwest, and Northwest and declining in the South, Southeast, New England, and the Midwest.

As I write in late-January, some of the seasonal flu statistics from the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention’s (CDC) situation update are:

  • 47 states report widespread geographic influenza activity, which is a decline from 48 states in early January.
  • 26 states and New York City report high levels of influenza-like illness.

Sadly, the CDC reports 37 children have died from the flu during the current season (which started last fall). The CDC adds in the past three months there have been about 6,191 laboratory confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations. About 50 percent of the hospitalized patients are age 65 or older. All of the latter numbers increased during January. 

Thomas R. Frieden, the CDC’s director, recently told the New York Times the 2013 seasonal flu especially has impacted older Americans. The CDC’s situation update website explains the flu’s impact on demographic groups is assessed via hospitalization and death rates, which are perceived to reflect the virus’ severity.’s flu health topic page explains children and seniors are among the most vulnerable groups to seasonal influenza. Other at risk groups include: pregnant women, persons with disabilities, and persons with serious, underlying medical conditions.

Although the CDC reports the proportion of patients seeing a health care provider for flu-like symptoms declined slightly in early January, in many states the aggregate numbers remain elevated for this time of year.

The New York Times also recently reported there are spot shortages of the flu vaccine. However, federal public health officials told the Times the shortages reflect an uneven distribution of the vaccine rather than a lack of supply.

Incidentally, the CDC’s flu website (and its situation update section) periodically revise relevant statistics and information. A link to the CDC’s website is available within the ‘overviews’ section of’s flu health topic page.’s flu health topic page also provides a link to (within the ‘start here’ section). The latter website is recommended because an easy-to-use flu vaccine finder is accessible on its homepage.’s flu health topic page explains the key to flu prevention is to get a flu shot; the flu vaccine is distributed throughout the U.S. The CDC’s vaccine finder tells you where flu shots are available locally.’s flu health topic page explains the flu is a respiratory infection caused by an array of viruses that are spread by an infected person. Flu viruses pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth.’s flu health topic page adds there are medications that diminish flu symptoms, such as body or muscle aches, chills, cough, fever, headache, and a sore throat, after you are infected. Some everyday flu precautions include: wash your hands regularly, and try to avoid touching your face.

A new cluster of videos within’s flu health topic page shows you how to avoid the spread of flu, how to treat it, and how to care for a child with the flu. These are available in the ‘videos’ section.’s flu health topic page also contains links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. From the flu health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.

To find’s flu health topic page, just type ‘flu’ in the search box at the top of’s home page. Then, click on ‘flu (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus also contains several related health topic pages, including bird flu, common cold and H1N1 Flu (swine flu).  

Of course, we hope you and your family avoid problems during this flu season. Considering the flu’s dispersion across the U.S. (and now in some other countries), it seems wise to be prepared — and know where to seek useful information. We will update you during the remainder of the flu season if conditions change significantly.

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you. I look forward to meeting you here next week.