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March 4, 2010

No Flu this Winter

HEALTH - There is no seasonal flu virus in North America so far in 2010. Normally Canada sees about 4,500 deaths caused by seasonal flu annually (1,500 in Ontario alone). So far in 2010 there has been none and the flu season is almost over.

There is a lot of speculation for the cause of this in the health community.

1. H1N1 wiped out the other influenza virus. According to scientists competing viruses often do that with the more virulent virus usually winning, although they still don't know why that happens.

2. Clean freaks disinfected everything in North America combined with frequent handwashing / sneezing into sleeves. (Yuck!) Hardly likely considering the number of people who just plain ignored the H1N1 threat.

3. A low year for the virus. Sometimes (once a decade or so) there is just a really quiet year for influenza. The last time that happened was Winter 2000-01.

4. Mild winter? Yes its been mild, but statistical evidence shows the flu is not effected by the weather otherwise we'd see it more widespread the closer to the poles you get.

Influenza viruses have been under the microscope for decades but there is still much we don't know about them.

There is only one seasonal flu currently circulating (in China) and that is it. The rest of the planet is surprisingly healthy.

It should be noted influenza is caused by contact with animals, primarily pigs and chickens. Pig/chicken farmers forget to wash their hands and become carriers of the virus, giving it to other people and before you know it the influenza virus spreads like wildfire. In theory if countries imposed more rules around the farming of chickens and swine, resulting in farmers wearing gloves (and possibly face masks), washing more frequently and behaving more like scientists in a biohazardous laboratory we could prevent the flu from spreading to humans so often.

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