Flu outbreaks and warmer winters

From Arizona State University where I really don’t think they understand that warmer winters aren’t necessarily a product of “climate change” but are mostly weather pattern and ocean cycle pattern driven. Then there’s the recent study about waste heat where the researchers found:

“…the extra heat given off by Northern Hemisphere urban areas causes as much as 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) of warming in winter.”

So, color me unconvinced that “climate change” is the real driver here. It is more like a convenient scapegoat.

Study shows climate change could affect onset and severity of flu seasons

The American public can expect to add earlier and more severe flu seasons to the fallout from climate change, according to a research study published online Jan. 28 in PLOS Currents: Influenza.

Research by Arizona State University scientists tracked the number of flu cases by week for the past 16 years. Their studies suggest there is a trend toward earlier and more severe flu seasons with potential link climate change. Credit: Arizona State University

A team of scientists led by Sherry Towers, research professor in the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center at Arizona State University, studied waves of influenza and climate patterns in the U.S. from the 1997-1998 season to the present.

The team’s analysis, which used Centers for Disease Control data, indicates a pattern for both A and B strains: warm winters are usually followed by heavy flu seasons.

“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 season, causing an early and strong emergence,” says Towers. “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, which is still in high gear in parts of the nation, began early and fiercely. It followed a relatively light 2011 season, which saw the lowest peak of flu since tracking efforts went into effect, and coincided with the fourth warmest winter on record. According to previous studies, flu transmission decreases in warm or humid conditions.

If global warming continues, warm winters will become more common, and the impact of flu will likely be more heavily felt, say the study’s authors.

Mathematical epidemiologist Gerardo Chowell-Puente, an associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, adds that the findings could inform preparedness efforts following mild winters: “The expedited manufacture and distribution of vaccines and aggressive vaccination programs could significantly diminish the severity of future influenza epidemics.”

###

This study was partially supported by the Multinational Influenza Seasonal Mortality Study, overseen by the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center. Other team members are Rasheed Hameed, Matthew Jastrebski, Maryam Khan, Jonathan Meeks, Anuj Mubayi and George Harris of Northeastern Illinois University. The goal of the overarching study is to better grasp the character and trajectory of influenza in all its forms.

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“research professor in the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center ”
Why does it always make my hair stand on end when I read the word “model” in studies…

Jeremy

I prefer the advice of old fashioned research:
Cover your mouth when coughing. Wash hands regularly. Stay at home if you are ill. Ensure fresh air in buildings. Get a flu shot if you are old or at risk.
The advice from this research paper, like all CAGW climate research, seems extremely useful to ONLY researchers seeking to consume large and larger taxpayer grants…

Jeremy, you wrote, as a way to reduce flu transmission, “Ensure fresh air in buildings.”
Heehee… I’ve raised the ire of folks on the net sometimes when I’ve made the suggestion that in terms of the flu you’re probably safer going to a Free Choice bar than a smoking banned bar. The Free Choice place is likely to spend the extra money for increased ventilation/filtration equipment that the banned place skimps on with no one the wiser. We saw a similar problem in airplanes when they banned smoking: airborne bacteria/fungi counts went way up in the aftermath as the planes switched over to recirculation, and now there are all sorts of complaints about lubricating/transmission/fuel vapor in the air of passenger cabins. Don’t know if they ever did an actual study on an increase in flu after the ventilation reductions though: would have been hard to get the data. Consumer Reports *did* run a major cover story titled “What’s Happened To Airplane Air?” with a pic of a gasping passenger clawing at a window two years after the US plane ban though.
– MJM

Mike Smith

This study shows (maybe) that weather can influence the course of the flu season.
The linkage to climate change is pure speculation. Even the title of the article reads “Study shows climate change could affect onset, severity of flu seasons”.
How much longer will the MSM and sheeple lap up this nonsense?

RoHa

When are you going to get those warmer winters in the Northern Hemisphere?

michaeljmcfadden

“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 season, causing an early and strong emergence,” says Towers. “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.”
Interesting thoughts. Anecdotally it would appear true for the current flu season in the Northeast after an unusually warm winter last year, and it sounds like their research did actually pick out the the last few “high incidence in early seasons” episodes to see if they also followed warm winters.
The second half of the statement is a bit more questionable though: what percentage of the population usually gets vaccinated by the halfway flu season point? Is it large enough to make the difference needed for the hypothesized effect?
😕
MJM

Mike Jowsey

Did the study empirically show warming in Arizona over the past 16 years? ‘Cos globally that ain’t the case.
Anyhoo, a bit OT, but from the Arizona State University website you linked to:
http://asuevents.asu.edu/great-debate-climate-change

Great Debate: Climate Change
surviving the future
7PM SAT FEB 2
This event is co-sponsored by: Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives ASU Origins Project
Location: ASU Gammage
Campus: Tempe
Cost: $10 $16 $26
Join scientists and leaders afflilated with NASA, NOAA, The Earth Institute, E3G, and The Global Institute of Sustainability for what is sure to be a lively conversation on the future of the nation and the world in our changing climate. The Origins Project at ASU is proud to host Prof. Wallace Broecker, Prof. Jim Hansen, Prof Susan Solomon, Mr. John Ashton CBE, and Prof. Sander Van Der Leeuw as they discuss controversial issues in the field of climate change. Origins Project director Lawrence Krauss will moderate the evening.
A book-signing will follow the event.
Tickets ON SALE NOW!

daved46

Somehow this post reminds me of Willis’ Tao of El Nino from earlier today. They both rely on feedback from an earlier time to modulate the current situation. I wonder if Willis could suggest hot these authors might improve their analysis?

TBear

Another expensive study to get us to yet another `climate change could’ conclusion. Must be great as a scientist in a rich nation such as the US, where endless amounts of grant money are available to spend on endless pursuits of irrelevant hypotheses. The Bear rolls eyes and logs off …

temp

“where I really don’t they they understand that warmer ”
I believe you want to replace a “they” with a “think”. Hehe i would know since thats how i write.

Ron Sinclair

These guys should be researching why the vacine worked so poorly this year. A 50% success rate is not worth getting the needle for. Like flipping a coin. I speak as one, of several I know, who got the needle, but to no avail. Most years, it has worked well for me.
Need some better statistical work on next year’s formulation. Get the Bayes theory guys to work!
Do something that has benefit to it.

ALVAN

“According to previous studies, flu transmission decreases in warm or humid conditions. If global warming continues, warm winters will become more common, and the impact of flu will likely be more heavily felt, say the study’s authors.”
It must take AGW logic to understand this.

davidmhoffer

omigod!
when people catch a disease, they build up immunity to it!
when they don’t catch that disease, they don’t build up immunity to it!
omigod!
omigod!
nobody knew this before!
cold is bad for human health!
omigod!
omigod!
nobody knew that before either!

“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 season, causing an early and strong emergence,” says Towers.
If global warming continues, warm winters will become more common, and the impact of flu will likely be more heavily felt, say the study’s authors.

Essentially they are arguing that low levels of immunity makes flu outbreaks more severe and this occurs after a warm winter. Of course, the reverse will be true, and high levels of immunity will make flu outbreaks less severe after a cold winter.
If warm winters alone were the cause of more severe flu outbreaks then we should see more severe outbreaks as we move toward the equator. We don’t see this, therefore warm winters alone are not the cause of more severe outbreaks.
In fact, influenza mortality has a strong negative correlation with winter temperatures.
http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=anthro_theses
Which makes me conclude warmer winters will decrease influenza severity.
You can file this study under; Another example of AGW money corrupting science.

DJ

…There is nothing that Global Warming can’t make worse. Including “overarching” studies.

dp

Unless this particular flu strain is triggered by a 16-year pause in climate change I’d have to conclude these people are more interested in grant money than health and personal integrity. Dunno why but snake oil is my current ear worm – can’t shake it.

thingadonta

I’ve always wondered why a ‘cold’ is called a cold, where it has little or nothing to do with being cold. I work in the tropics, and have never seen so many people with ‘colds’, and I have never caught so many ‘colds’ myself (probably because I am not used to the local strains) whilst simulateneously sweating with the heat. I suspect flu has little or nothing to do with either warmth or cold either. (And same again for malaria, although cold weather does kill mosquitoes)
Perhaps people are ever so slightly more susceptible to catching a ‘cold’ when they are actually cold, but a more dominant influence might be basic health and hygiene, which is why so many in the tropics, where I work, where both health and hygiene is poor, catch so many ‘colds’. Same goes for flu I expect.

For once and for all: Cold weather causes more flu.
Don’t believe it? Check the hospitals in summer – no flu patients.
The colder the weather, more flu and breathing diseases.

NucEngineer

So I take it that the winters of 1918 and 1919 were warmed by global warming, and that caused the severity of the Spanish Flu epidemic.

Onset is a function of vector. Aka mobility. When Patient N can be anywhere in the world in 20 hours after interacting with thousands who also exhibit similar mobility any previous propagation model is rendered moot.

The only thing ‘weather’ related about the flu is that is is carried by migratory birds.
They mix several Hx Nx types and don’t bother to point out that the remix each year (in pigs and ducks in Asia in many cases) changes the stew. The vaccine is made well in advance of knowing what is coming, so often does not contain the right HxNx type.
I’ve regularly asked the Dr. what is in the ‘mix’ and what is the type in progress and they are often different. In other words, the ‘magic bullet’ is often wrong. They depend on a lot of folks getting the shots over years to kind of make up for that…
In summary:
Important drivers are the Asian reshuffle of antigens, then the match or non-match of that year of vaccine (and whatever was doled out in the prior few years that might accidentally be right this time…)
Only a tiny bit related to Asian bird migrations, thus weather.
Heat has little to do with it (other than folks ‘cuddle up and share’ in the cold…)

Joe

But… but… but
If warm winters have less cases, creating less immunity, then surely they’ll only lead to more cases the next year if the next year is cold again,? Either that or turn the annual flu cycle into a bi-annual one?

John F. Hultquist

Stay away from groups of people, especially little ones, classrooms, and public school teachers. Get the shot, early. Also get the Pneumonia shot.
~~~~~~~
Has anyone else seen the Feb. 2013 Smithsonian p.10, “From the Castle”? G. Wayne Clough (Sec. of the S.) offers up a grab bag of global warming garbage. He doesn’t mention flu but does get in that the organization hosted a symposium on the Anthropocene (sic).
{ Plastiolithic, please! }

John F. Hultquist

Breaking News:
See:
http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/01/28/un-climate-report-models-overestimated-global-warming/
Draft UN climate report shows 20 years of overestimated global warming, skeptics warn

Jason Calley

When it is colder, people stay indoors more, and when they do go outside, they cover up more. Maybe flu is more easily caught by people who have less sun exposure and hence less vitamin D.

Andy Wilkins

Uh oh – useless model alert!
Extensive use of the words ‘could’ and ‘maybe’!

John, very true about the deadliness of tiny human disease spreaders. Something ought to be done about them.
Meanwhile, this is also true: ““The IPCC’s claim is that they are 90 percent sure that humans have ‘contributed to’ the observed warming.”
Heck, if I sit here and scratch my butt it’s an inescapable scientific fact that the friction I have created by that action has contributed to anthropogenic global warming.
– MJM, the butt-scratcher

Claes Lindskog

It seems to me that a larger population, better heated houses and more industrial plants must create a temperature rise especially in the winter without any CO2 as a possible driver. The size of the overall change (climate, temperature, whatever you call it) due to this cause must be difficult to assess but some part of it will appear as a local effect close to major population centers increasing throughout the last 100 years (just as Anthony so ably has shown).

I am applying for funding using the hypothesis that I have more bogers up my nose due to climate change, using “1997-1998 season to the present.” Mainly so I can ignore winter years such as 1968/9 and as I wasn’t born making my theory undisputable. Anyone accusing me of cherry picking may be executed for climate denialism and for the heinous crime of threatening my source of income.
In my next project I will be looking at stealing candy from a baby and blaming it on climate change
/sarc

Ginger wrote, “I am applying for funding using the hypothesis that I have more bogers up my nose due to climate change, … Anyone accusing me of cherry picking may be executed for climate denialism and for the heinous crime of threatening my source of income.”
Ginger, cherry-picking is allowed. Boger-picking is not. Please report to the Principal’s office immediately.
– MJM

The only thing ‘weather’ related about the flu is that is is carried by migratory birds. “”
I think some of those birds are named B747 and A380 etc.

Streetcred

They should speak to their buddies at Georgia Tech : Cloud forming bacteria?
http://joannenova.com.au/2013/01/cloud-forming-bacteria/

Well the BBC did a documentary on flu epidemics last night. This year the norovirus has been the big problem. The spike was much earlier, and the biggest factor in spreading flu are the dates that the schools open and close, which even for the BBC sounded plausible. The peaks build up just after schools open, and dampen down when schools close for holiday.
Perhaps this another good reason for warmists and environmentalists to hate children

Larry Huldén

It is known in Finland that we have more flu during cold winters. People are then crowding more close together in public transports. May be the PLOS authors have not thought of this causation because of modelling.

Disko Troop

Pol Pot and Mao Tse Tung were right. Take these so called academics out into the fields and give them something useful to do.
Ivor Ward.

Old Spanky

C’mon people, researchers gotta research, and that costs money. If the climate change money spigot is flowing most freely that’s where the researchers will go. The bargain they make is they gotta give a climate change angle to whatever they publish. I know of a project to develop some graphics software that got funding from a sanitation department by pretending they wanted to map the sewers. They didn’t; they wanted to develop graphics software. No map was ever produced but some keen old software got written.
Personally, whenever I see “could” in the title of a climate-related paper I nod and think, yep, you held up your end of the bargain but you don’t believe this is climate related any more than I do.
“Could” is a code word. It’s like seeing the word “drink” after “fruit juice”, or “food” after “cheese”. It’s there tell you the paper has been adulterated for commercial reasons.

Jimbo

If global warming continues, warm winters will become more common, and the impact of flu will likely be more heavily felt, say the study’s authors.

But we were told to expect colder winters as the Arctic ice declines. If warm winters continue??? Tell that to the Europeans who have in recent years been seeing that thing of the past. I’m just wondering that if indeed warmer winters is the result of AGW then how many lives would be saved?
Cold also kills

There were an estimated 24,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2011/12 – an 8 per cent reduction compared with the previous winter.
http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/subnational-health2/excess-winter-mortality-in-england-and-wales/2011-12–provisional–and-2010-11–final-/index.html

Richards in Vancouver

michaeljmcfadden says:
January 29, 2013 at 12:06 am
“Heck, if I sit here and scratch my butt it’s an inescapable scientific fact that the friction I have created by that action has contributed to anthropogenic global warming.”
Please scratch you butt a bit more vigorously. I’ve got a slight fever and the sniffles.

Gail Combs

John F. Hultquist says:
January 28, 2013 at 11:21 pm
Breaking News:
See:
http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/01/28/un-climate-report-models-overestimated-global-warming/
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Looks like a bit of controlled opposition to me.

Skeptics such as Spencer also say that the chart does not mean that global warming is a hoax.
“The IPCC’s claim is that they are 90 percent sure that humans have ‘contributed to’ the observed warming. Hell, even I would agree with that innocuous statement.”
….
[The final statement is]
Huertas said that the criticisms “are an attempt to obscure the bigger picture.”
“Climate change is happening, it is due to human activities, and the emissions choices we make today will have the largest influence on the extent of future climate change.”

However at least skeptics are finally making the news.

Gail Combs

Jason Calley says:
January 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm
When it is colder, people stay indoors more, and when they do go outside, they cover up more. Maybe flu is more easily caught by people who have less sun exposure and hence less vitamin D.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.
Do not forget to add a lack of humidity. Colder temperatures mean the indoor air is a lot dryer.
Researchers have long puzzled over why flu becomes so much more active in winter. A new study reveals that dry air is one likely culprit.
You might want to include this study at the top of the page Anthony.

…Dr. Jeffrey Shaman of Oregon State University wondered if absolute humidity—a measure of how much water vapor is in the air—could account for flu outbreaks. Last year, he reexamined laboratory data and found that absolute humidity could account for the airborne survival and transmission of the virus.
In the new study, Shaman and collaborators at several institutions, including NIH’s Fogarty International Center (FIC), compared death rates attributed to influenza over 31 years to absolute humidity readings nationwide. The researchers used a mathematical model of the influenza transmission cycle that incorporated Shaman’s previous findings of how absolute humidity affects the survival and transmission of the virus…..
In PLoS Biology on February 23, 2010, the researchers reported that there were often significant drops in absolute humidity in the weeks prior to a flu outbreak. “This dry period is not a requirement for triggering an influenza outbreak, but it was present in 55-60% of the outbreaks we analyzed, so it appears to increase the likelihood of an outbreak,” Shaman says. “The virus response is almost immediate; transmission and survival rates increase and about 10 days later, the observed influenza mortality rates follow.”

wayne Job

These people make an excellent case for the naming of the flu epidemic, the spanish flu, bird flu , swine flu and now we need to alarm every one that the next epidemic is caused by climate change.
It would be appropriate at this time to have a naming contest, for the next great scare I will start the ball rolling.
Hansonitic Flubia
Mannanitis Flubious
IPCCitis epidemic
BOMonic plague
It would seem we have suffered these already any one have a clue of our next plague we have to endure

In the UK we are able to get immunized against the flue virus. Unfortunately it works against last year’s virus not the current one. The flue virus is probably the most active virus at mutation. The current year’s might be less or more virulent than the last and only the first case can tell.
That study about urban heat altering climate 1000 miles away was total rubbish.

In Childcare I get sneezed on every day, and exposed to copious amounts of mucus and worse, and my understanding is that studies shows hand-washing over and over and over is the only thing that truly makes a difference.
The ‘flu came early to New Hampshire this year, and the ‘flu shot didn’t seem to help much. Therefore some local folk have decided we bred our own strain, which is spreading out across the world, and we deserve either blame or credit, (depending on your feelings about population control.) At the very least it should get a name like “The Hong Kong ‘Flu.” Perhaps “The Granite State Grippe.”

Nerd

Gail Combs says:
January 29, 2013 at 2:37 am
You might want to take a closer look at wide spread vitamin D deficiency during the winter for cold and flu. It doesn’t look like humidity has anything to do with flu or cold (lived in Houston). Once I found out about vitamin D deficiency that made it much more likely to catch cold or flu, I started taking the right amount based on body weight 4 years ago, it worked much better than anything I’ve tried. http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/infections-and-autoimmunity/influenza/
Rule of thumb for the dosage – 1000IU for every 25lbs of bodyweight.
Guess what the daily recommendation is? 600IU…
Guess how much you get from the sun during the summer at midday without sunblock lotion? 10,000-20,000 IU for people with light colored skin after 15-30 minutes. The darker the skin is, the longer sun exposure it gets to get same amount of vitamin D. (Be smart about the amount of sun exposure though but apparently you tan faster with high vitamin D blood level which is strange)
It’s not really a vitamin D but a pre-hormone that your body converts to powerful hormone called calcitriol. It’s often referred as DNA/genetic repair and maintenance by vitamin D experts.
Sun Scare belongs to trash along with CAGW…

Why would the drivers for increased flu be very similar to the common cold? Colder temps result in increased crowding in less ventilated spaces, decreased resistance(?) due to exposure to the cold and drier air allowing droplets containing the virus to remain intact. We catch colds in the winter. We can catch our death by getting cold and wet. Seems to me that this “research” isn’t much more than recycling what we already “know” and packaging it as climate change.

Peter Miller

Air borne viruses live longer at lower temperatures.
Consequently, warmer winters have a tendency to have lower numbers of flu victims.
That’s logical. The conclusion of this study about the myth of CAGW causing warmer winters and therefore more flu victims is complete and utter BS – typical alarmist nonsense.

David L.

History starts in 1997? Let’s see the graph for the influenza outbreak of 1918 which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.
Interesting quote: “It is an oddity of history that the influenza epidemic of 1918 has been overlooked in the teaching of American history. Documentation of the disease is ample, as shown in the records selected from the holdings of the National Archives regional archives. Exhibiting these documents helps the epidemic take its rightful place as a major disaster in world history.”
from: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/influenza-epidemic/

David L.
David L.

This is another correlational study that attempts to show causation. In a stats class years ago we learned that homicide rates are correlated with how nice the weather is: more homicides in the warmer days of summer than other colder seasons. The explanation was because in the summer there are more people out and about interacting with each other and not because the warm weather drives people to murder. Maybe the same effect is going on here. Warmer winters have more people going out and interacting with each other. I know the amount of traffic on my sleepy little road is dramatically higher on warmer days than on very cold and/or rainy days.

Richie

Although I doubt warmer weather is coming anytime soon, I also doubt that catching the flu is such a catastrophe it should be treated as a public-health casus belli, like polio: It’s been known for 100 years that a severe fever, such as one might experience with a really bad strain of the flu, can cure terminal cancer.

Tom O

John F. Hultquist says:
January 28, 2013 at 11:11 pm
Stay away from groups of people, especially little ones, classrooms, and public school teachers. Get the shot, early. Also get the Pneumonia shot.
~~~~~~~
John, most of the people I know that DID get the flu shot also got the fl\u. Most fo the people that I know that did NOT getthe flu shot, likewise, did not get the flu. Are you suggesting we all need to get flu shots so we can be sick and make the medical professionals more wealthy?
As an Arizonan, I am very much disappointed in this sort of flimsy research.

“… the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences”

Am I correct in thinking that “Liberal Sciences” do not require empirical evidence?