What’s New in Flu?

By: Allison Hydzik

Forecasting flu season can be as tricky as predicting a horse race.

You look for the most likely candidate to dominate the race, and that’s where you bet most of your money, sparing some for the potential second-  and third-place finishers.

Every year, world health officials look at existing flu strains and pick the ones they think are most likely to circulate in the coming season. And there’s a lot riding on it – vaccine manufacturers use those predictions in creating the vaccine for the coming flu season.

Amesh Adalja

Amesh Adalja, M.D.

“There is good reason to invest time and effort into learning as much as possible about currently circulating strains of influenza and keeping informed of developments before and throughout flu season,” said Amesh Adalja, M.D., a UPMC infectious disease physician. “The flu is deadly, and our patient population can be particularly susceptible.”

Tomorrow at 8 a.m., Dr. Adalja, who is also a senior associate at the UPMC Center for Health Security in Baltimore, will present on influenza at Medical Grand Rounds at UPMC Shadyside in the West Wing Auditorium. It is open to the public, and physicians can receive continuing medical education credit.

The hour-long presentation will give an overview of influenza, paying particular attention to what’s “new” for the coming season, including new vaccine formulations and treatment protocols. In addition, Dr. Adalja will take a look at historical aspects of past pandemics that should inform current thinking on influenza.

“And, of course, the specter of avian influenza still lurks,” said Dr. Adalja, who specializes in emerging pathogens. “Health leaders are on the lookout for how a so-called ‘bird flu’ pandemic could arise and spread, so I’ll take a look at the current thinking on that as well.”