USA Today:No, it’s not that simple, but new research says happy lives are longer — by 35%.The study, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that those who reported feeling happiest had a 35% reduced risk of dying compared with those who reported feeling least happy.Rather than rely on recollections about their feelings of happiness as in earlier studies, this British study of 3,853 participants ages 52-79 rated their feelings at different times on one particular day. Five years later, researchers recorded the number who died and controlled for a variety of factors, including age, gender, health, wealth, education and marital status.This approach “gets closer to measuring how people actually feel” rather than relying on recollections or general questions about well-being, says epidemiologist Andrew Steptoe, a psychology professor at University College in London, who co-authored the study.Read the full story: USA Today More of our Members in the Media >
May 26, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – It has long been suspected that influenza increases the risk of heart attacks, but the connection has been nebulous because it’s difficult to distinguish the effects of flu from the effects of cold weather, which prevails in flu season in temperate regions.Now, a British-Chinese research team says its analysis of 10 years’ worth of flu, heart-attack, and weather data in the United Kingdom, a temperate country, and Hong Kong, a subtropical place, provides stronger evidence that flu contributes to myocardial infarction (MI).Writing in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the researchers conclude that up to 5.6% of MI-related deaths in Hong Kong and up to 3.4% of such deaths in England and Wales between 1999 and 2008 were attributable to flu.”We found a consistent association between seasonal influenza circulation and acute MI-associated hospitalizations and deaths in 2 different settings characterized by differing populations, climates, and patterns of health-seeking behavior,” says the report. The study was led by Charlotte Warren-Gash of Royal Free Hospital in London.In an accompanying commentary, two flu specialists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say the study strengthens the case for a link between flu and heart attacks and points up the need for flu vaccines that are more effective in elderly people.Comparing MIs and flu activityThe authors say their study apparently is the first to examine the connection between flu activity and national rates of fatal and nonfatal MI in two different places and populations.The researchers used government sources to gather data on MI-related hospitalizations and deaths in England and Wales and in Hong Kong for the period January 1999 through December 2008. They also relied on official sources for daily temperature and humidity data. For comparison, they also gathered data on two conditions not likely to be associated with flu: colon cancer and femoral neck fractures.To track flu activity, the team examined general practitioner (GP) flu consultation rates for influenza-like illness (ILI) in the UK, while in Hong Kong they used the percentage of respiratory specimens that tested positive, since ILI data are deemed less specific for flu in subtropical areas. They compared the flu activity and MI data by week and used a regression analysis to control for the effects of temperature and humidity.The analysis showed there were 1,219,150 MI-related hospitalizations and 410,204 MI-related deaths in England and Wales during the 10 years, for a median of 2,421 hospitalizations and 777 deaths per week, with a marked winter peak. ILI consultations ranged from 0.8 to 270.8 per 100,000 population per week and were highest in 1998-99 and 1999-2000.For the same period, Hong Kong had 65,108 MI-linked hospitalizations and 18,780 deaths, for medians of 110 and 32 per week, respectively. The Hong Kong data showed a large winter peak and a small summer rise in MIs.A strong associationAfter adjusting for temperature and humidity, the scientists found a “strong association” between GP consultations and MI-linked deaths in England and Wales. The association was clearest in models featuring “lag times” of 1 or 2 weeks between MI-related deaths and increases in flu indicators. For a 1-week lag, the incident rate ratio (IRR) was 1.051 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.043 to 1.058; P<.01).An association between flu activity and MI-related hospitalizations was also found for England and Wales, but it was smaller than the link between flu and MI deaths.For Hong Kong the analysis showed a strong link between the proportion of specimens positive for flu and MI-related deaths occurring in the same week (no lag time) (IRR, 1.077; 95% CI, 1.013 to 1.145; P=.018), after adjustments for temperature and humidity. The analysis showed a slightly smaller association between flu diagnoses and MI hospitalizations in Hong Kong.Depending on the seasonality model used, the researchers estimated that in England and Wales, 3.1% to 3.4% of MI-related deaths and 0.7% to 1.2% of MI-related hospitalizations were due to flu. For Hong Kong the estimates were 3.9% to 5.6% of deaths and 3.0% to 3.3% of hospitalizations. All of the estimates were found significant, with P values of .018 or lower. In both countries, the link between flu and MI was strongest in the oldest groups (80 years and older).The findings were most striking for weeks of peak flu activity, according to the authors' models. At those times, 9.7% to 13.6% of MI deaths in Hong Kong and 10.7% to 11.8% of MI deaths in England and Wales were attributable to flu.The analysis showed no association between flu activity and colon cancer or fractures of the femoral neck.Study helps build the caseIn the commentary, Lynn Finelli and Sandra S. Chaves of the CDC write, "This well-designed and -analyzed study adds to the pool of evidence supporting a relationship between influenza and AMI [acute MI] independent of temperature and humidity and is the first to our knowledge to propose influenza-attributable proportions for acute myocardial hospitalization and death."The commentators note a couple of limitations in the study. For one, the authors did not look into the effects of viruses other than flu. Another problem is the "inconsistent lag times observed between countries and among outcomes for ILI visits/influenza circulation and hospitalizations and deaths."The study does not address exactly how influenza might contribute to cardiovascular events. Finelli and Chaves say acute respiratory infections trigger responses such as an increase in white blood cells and release of cytokines, which may make atherosclerotic plaques more prone to rupture and block coronary arteries.As for the overall case for flu as a contributor to MI, the commentators say, "There is consistent ecologic evidence that overall cardiovascular mortality is related to influenza virus circulation and ILI activity, and there is consistent ecologic and individual level evidence that occurrence of AMI can be temporally related to acute respiratory infection including ILI."The data "are compelling so far," but the evidence is not yet conclusive, they add. Still needed are prospective studies of MI in individuals with laboratory evidence of flu infection.Praise and questionsThe study drew qualified praise from another veteran flu researcher, Lone Simonsen, PhD, research director at Georgetown University's Department of Global Health in Washington, DC."This is a carefully conducted time series analysis, making a good case for MI being associated with influenza. I especially like the consideration of non-influenza outcomes like colon cancer and hip fractures," she commented by e-mail.She also hailed the use of two locations with different climates and flu seasons and the tracking of MI events in entire populations—"very different from longitudinal studies where the number of MI events is typically limited."However, Simonsen said she was bothered by the finding that in the UK, the link between flu and MI was clearest in models showing increased MI events before, rather than after, increases in flu activity."Usually in this type of study one would expect to see a temporal pattern of influenza peaks followed by MI peaks," she said. "For example, it is understood that pneumonia hospitalizations and deaths typically peak a few weeks AFTER peak influenza activity. . . . For England and Wales, the MI peak for hospitalizations (and deaths) occurred 2, 3, and 4 weeks BEFORE the influenza peak."This may of course be explained by some delay in adult patients seeking care for influenza—2 to 3 weeks is a long time. But one has to wonder about the possibility that other winter-seasonal pathogens are playing a role; for example RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] activity often peaks earlier than influenza."Simonsen suggested that further research on the issue should focus on flu epidemics with unusual timing, such as the early flu season of 2003-04 and the H1N1 pandemic in the summer and fall of 2009. If there were early peaks of MI activity in those seasons, it would strengthen the evidence that the association is real, she said.The study authors address the issue of the UK lag times between MI and flu activity in their discussion, commenting that one British study showed that phone calls to the National Health Service for colds and flu preceded GP reports of the same symptoms by 1 to 3 weeks. "This may explain why we saw the best model fits, and greatest estimates of effect, when UK influenza data was lagged by -1 to -3 weeks (representing our assumptions that reported ILI consultations represent illness occurring in the community some time earlier)."However, they acknowledge that "peaks in MIs might precede GP reports of ILI if triggered by other synchronous environmental events." But they add that they used sensitivity analyses to control for temperature.Policy implicationsFinelli and Chaves comment that the findings imply that increasing vaccination coverage in people at risk for heart attacks might reduce their risk of such events. However, they note that several retrospective studies of the effects of flu vaccination on the risk of cardiovascular events have yielded inconsistent results."Because influenza vaccine effectiveness is suboptimal, especially in older people, the opportunity to prevent influenza-related complications in this population will benefit from the development of more immunogenic and effective vaccines," they write.Warren-Gash C, Bhaskaran K, Hayward A, et al. Circulating influenza virus, climatic factors, and acute myocardial infarction: a time series study in England and Wales and Hong Kong. J Infect Dis 2011 Jun 15;203(12):1710-7 [Abstract]Finelli L, Chaves SS. Influenza and acute myocardial infarction. (Commentary) J Infect Dis 2011 Jun 15;203(12):1701-4 [Full text]See also:Sep 21, 2010, CIDRAP News story "Study on flu shots and heart-attack risk questioned"
Jan 6, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is taking steps to prepare for clinical trials of a vaccine targeted to a novel H3N2 influenza strain that has infected at least 12 people so far, in case one is needed, a department official said today.The moves follow the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcement in November that it had developed a candidate vaccine virus and provided it to manufacturers. The swine-origin H3N2 reassortant strain (H3N2v) includes the M gene from the 2009 H1N1 virus. The 12 infections were all reported in 2011, occurring mostly in children.The CDC has said that some of the cases, especially those in children, probably involved limited person-to-person spread of the virus. The current seasonal flu vaccine is thought to provide little protection against the H3N2v strain, though people who were infected with or vaccinated against similar H3N2 strains that circulated in the 1990s might have some protection.Gretchen Michael, a spokeswoman with the HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response (ASPR), told CIDRAP News that HHS has asked manufacturers to produce enough H3N2v vaccine to launch clinical trials. She said the request to have clinical lots ready is part of its pandemic preparedness program, a strategy that has also been used for other viruses that could have pandemic potential, such as H5N1 and H9N2.She said HHS has asked Sanofi Pasteur and Novartis to produce the investigational vaccine lots, which would be used in clinical trials by the National Institutes of Health and the manufacturers. The supply of vaccine for the studies will likely be ready by spring, Michael said.No new novel flu infections were reported today in the CDC’s weekly flu update. The agency has asked states to increase their surveillance for the new virus.See also:Nov 22 CDC statement
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The roster is full of stars and players known around the baseball-loving country. But the two players who have made arguably the biggest impacts on Houston’s two wins in Washington weren’t exactly household names heading into October. And that, folks, is part of what makes October so very great. The spotlight is an equal-opportunity star-maker.FOSTER: This World Series shows that nothing means anything in baseballJose Urquidy didn’t act much like a World Series hero after Game 4. While his teammates held court in the Astros clubhouse, the right-hander who threw five shutout innings in Game 4 sat alone at his locker, wearing the team’s “Take It Back” hoodie, his Astros cap on his head and Adidas trainers with three team-color orange stripes. As the star of the game was waiting for his turn in the interview room, he was scrolling through his phone, which had been bombarded with words of congratulations. “Yes, a lot of family was texting me and calling me about this game,” he told reporters. “There were messages in my phone now. But I know all my people are watching me now.”He scrolled so much that he even switched hands at one point, all while his catcher, Robinson Chirinos — himself an unexpected hero for the Astros in the two games in D.C. — heaped lavish praise on the pitcher from Mexico.“What can I say? You guys watched the game,” Chirinos said. “Those five innings, they were outstanding. Everything for him was working tonight. His fastball, his changeup were unbelievable. His slider got so much better the last four weeks.”In his five innings, he allowed only two hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out four.“He was picking apart the zone,” Nationals catcher Yan Gomes said. “He was elevating the ball pretty good, mixing speeds. Just overall, pitched a good game, exactly what they wanted.” Urquidy had never pitched above High-A ball heading into 2019. He had a 4.09 ERA in Double-A and a 4.63 ERA in Triple-A. He made his big league debut in July but lasted only a month before he was sent down to the minors. He came back in September, posted a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings, and now just threw five shutout frames in Game 4.“What a day! Being the third Mexican to pitch in the World Series, being the second, I think, to win a game,” Chirinos said. “I know his family, his whole country of Mexico is proud of what he accomplished tonight.”MORE: Five defining moments from Astros’ Game 4 winThis World Series has an incredibly impressive collection of starting pitchers. Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke have five Cy Young awards and 12 other top-five finishes among them. Gerrit Cole, as mentioned, might win this year’s award. Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin finished outstanding campaigns for the Nationals.And yet, it’s Urquidy who authored the best start of the World Series. In his five shutout innings, he allowed only two hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out four. “From the very beginning I thought he was calm, I thought he was in control of his stuff,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “His fastball had a little extra life to it. It’s had good life this postseason. And then he just came up with big pitch after big pitch.”When he was pulled after the fifth inning, the Astros had a 4-0 lead, thanks in part to the second home run in as many days by Chirinos, the 35-year-old catcher who signed with the club as a free agent last offseason. His Game 3 home run hit the foul pole down the left-field line, and his Game 4 home run — a two-run shot — went deep into the left-field bleachers to put Houston up 4-0 in the fourth inning. “I’m working so hard in the cage to be consistent, to make sure I put a good swing to the ball,” Chirinos said. “Last night, I told everybody here, I put myself in a good position. I was swinging at strikes, I was staying to the middle of the field and I did again tonight.“My first at-bat, I chased some changeups down, and I rolled over for a double play. My second at-bat, I was more calm. I took a slider down and in, a good pitch. The second one, the changeup was out. He was trying to go down and in and it went middle-middle and I was able to hit it out of the ballpark. I’m proud to help my team win.”MORE: Three takeaways from Game 4And a big part of helping the team win was working with Urquidy. “Obviously Chirinos has been incredibly important to me and he’s helped me out so much behind the plate,” Urquidy said. “He’s someone that I trust 100 percent with every pitch and he’s been an incredible help to me and to all the pitchers.” WASHINGTON — The star power in the Astros’ clubhouse is impressive. The 2019 AL Cy Young award will certainly wind up in Houston, either with Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander. Jose Altuve is building a case as the best player in baseball history who stands 5-6 or shorter. Alex Bregman just might win the AL MVP award. George Springer shares the record for most consecutive World Series games with a home run. Carlos Correa was the No. 1 overall draft pick and an AL Rookie of the Year. We talk a lot about “out of nowhere” performances by lesser-known players in October, and the truth is, that’s just on a national scale. For the players and coaches and front-office types — and the home-team fan bases — those players aren’t unknown at all.But it’s still nice to see a brighter spotlight give then more attention.“It’s awesome,” Jake Marisnick told SN. “You have so many guys behind the scenes who grind it out and those two guys were great for us, a big part of the reason we won today.”