Flu peaks change with the climate

Nick Wilson.
Nick Wilson.
Climate change could be altering traditional flu patterns, a University of Otago influenza authority says.

Associate Prof Nick Wilson, of the Wellington campus, was contacted for comment about unusually early pockets of influenza this year.

Prof Wilson said it was possible climate change was affecting the usual season, which generally peaks in the middle of the year.

Warmer climates did not tend to have a peak.

''In tropical countries where the seasons aren't as dramatic, there's no strong winter peak. It's just spread out through the year.

''With climate change, who knows - we might move towards that more spread-out pattern. [Because of climate change], we've got to think about how disease patterns change as well.''

Asked if that meant the flu vaccination push might have to be sooner in the year, he said successive years of flu data would need to be analysed. Multiple cases of the H1N1 strain have been reported in several parts of the country recently.

The annual vaccination programme is in full swing.

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew, in a recent press release, said more than 654,000 flu jabs had been distributed. This was 10% more than the same time last year.

Mrs Goodhew said March 31 was day 36 of the 2014 influenza vaccination campaign ''and already we're over halfway to our target of 1.25 million doses by 31 July''.

''Flu vaccination is easier to get than ever. It's free from a GP for those 65 and over, pregnant women and people with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease [including asthma], kidney disease and most cancers. Many workplaces offer free vaccination, and also GPs and now many pharmacists can provide it for a small charge.

''The best protection against influenza is immunisation. The strains included in this season's influenza vaccine are a good match to those strains in the recent northern hemisphere influenza season, including the H1N1 strain.''

While there was one possible case of H1N1 flu in Oamaru last month, the South appears to have missed the early run of flu.

Southern District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Keith Reid said this week the local health authority ''still'' had no reports of flu activity.

''We have approached seven practices across the district to provide surveillance in accordance with the national protocols, and are expecting to launch local surveillance on 28 April.''


Junk Science...

Jimmy Jones takes it upon himself to remind casual readers that there "Has been no significant warming in recent decades" then goes on to assert that "With no warming there is no reason to suspect..."

It is simply untrue that there had been no warming.  The statement that "There has been no significant warming" is not the same as the statement "There has been no warming.  The first statement means that a warming trend may exist, but the error bars can not exclude the possibility that there has been no actual warming.  Obviously this is very different from the situation suggested by the second statement.

A simpler explanation

JimmyJones is right, the details in this story are very sketchy.

There would seem to be no reason to shoehorn in a climate change explanation. More likely, it is just an increasing number of tourists bringing the 'flu with them.

"Total international arrivals for the first two months of 2014 were up by 9.5 per cent on the same period last year. For the year ended February 2014, arrivals were 2.77 million, a new 12 month record and a 7.3 per cent increase." Source

Junk science

overit: if Climate Change (anthropogenic global warming) was a fact you wouldn't need to keep telling us so; it would be obvious, like gravity and the speed of sound and the sun-centered solar system.

If global warming was the cause of the broadening of the influenza peak then there would have to have been some increase in temperatures. Measurements over the last 15+ years show no statistically significant change in global surface temperatures. Not only has there been no significant change, but there has been a slightly decreasing trend in temperature. The IPCC call this "the pause" and they have no satisfactory explanation for what went wrong with their climate predictions. They blame "internal variability", which is code for "we don't have a clue". 

Anything that you think was caused by global warming over the last 15 years wasn't, because there was no warming. The period of warming before 1998 did have some effects, but there is no good evidence that the warming was caused by human activity.

Stinging attack

JimmyJones: Climate change is a fact.
Viruses are brilliant at evolving/mutating/adapting.
NZ is exposed to varying flu 'seasons' from a combination of international climate change and international travel movements by NZers and visitors and immigrants to NZ.

Junk news

Associate Prof Nick Wilson is very sloppy with his language. If all he can tell us is that something is "possible" and something else "could" be a cause, then he should admit that he doesn't know.

The story is built on the claim that there were "unusually early pockets of influenza this year". Because we haven't been told the source of this claim, or even what country, readers should not believe that this is true. Associate Prof Nick Wilson doesn't confirm the claim.

I suspect that Associate Prof Nick Wilson is unaware of the terrible truth - that there has been no significant warming of New Zealand's climate in recent decades. With no warming there is no reason to suspect this as a cause of the claimed broadening of the influenza peak period and no reason to link global warming with the claimed early pockets of influenza. There is, however, a strong link between articles scaremongering about global warming and bad journalism. [abridged]


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