April 27, 2017

Worse flu seasons to come?

By Scott Lafee, CNS


Climate change is nothing to sneeze at.

Indeed, if researchers are right, you might be sneezing more.

In a new published study, scientists at Arizona State University say an analysis of flu and climate patterns in the United States from 1997 to the present suggests that warm winters are usually followed by heavier-than-normal influenza outbreaks.

“It appears that fewer people contract influenza during warm winters, and this causes a major portion of the population to remain vulnerable into the next (flu) season, causing an early and strong emergence,” said study author Sherry Towers, a professor at the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center at ASU.

“And when a flu season begins exceptionally early, much of the population has not had a chance to get vaccinated, potentially making that flu season even worse.”

The current flu season may be a case in point: It began early and fiercely and still rages in parts of the country. The Vermont Department of Health has labeled the current flu level in Vermont “widespread,” meaning that outbreaks of influenza or influenza-like illness are reported in at least half the regions in the state.

This flu season followed a relatively light 2011 season and coincided with the fourth warmest winter on record.

According to studies, flu transmission decreases in warm or humid conditions.

The authors speculate that if global warming continues, with warm summers becoming more common, the emergence of future flu seasons is likely to be more dramatic and perhaps more devastating.


  1. youngvt says:

    I am writing in response to Mr. Hoxworth’s article on transportation costs for the poor in Vermont. I would like to suggest further research on this topic before we simply just give another handout or tax credit. The poor, may, have a higher disproportionate burden on their transportation costs than the wealthier residents of Vermont; however, they also have a lower disproportionate burden on taxes and housing. Pick your evil.
    We can simply just give every poor Vermonter an energy efficient car, gas card, free tuition, renter’s rebate, etc.…but the only way out of poverty is through the combination of education, hard work, and discipline. Education and degrees are not handed out or purchased; a person has to EARN them. This seems to be the only way out of poverty—sorry, there are no shortcuts.
    If we continue this trend of enabling, our entire state will be a welfare state.

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