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Professor evaluates influenza vaccine

first_imgVaccines are arguably one of the most important lines of defense against the spread of influenza, a common seasonal virus that can have uncommonly nasty effects in elderly individuals with compromised immune systems. Contrary to conventional wisdom, however, a recent study by assistant professor of biological science Benjamin Ridenhour found that in a comprehensive analysis of people ages 65 and over, the influenza vaccine was only about 20 percent effective, underscoring the need for better flu vaccines. Previous studies by researchers in the field focused on different age groups for determining the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine, and extrapolation led to an overstatement of the usefulness of the annual influenza vaccines in the elderly population, Ridenhour said. Individuals from this age group account for most of the roughly 25,000 people who die each year from influenza in the United States alone, Ridenhour said. “Normally the influenza vaccine – going with what the party line is – is about 60 percent effective, which is not great but definitely better than nothing,” Ridenhour said. “One of the big issues there is that this 60 percent number has come from studies of people that are between the ages of 20 and 65, and less than five. “So there are two age groups that we haven’t done a lot of studies on: one of those age groups is the elderly, 65 and over, and the other is the intermediate five to 18 year-old age group. There’s more concern for the elderly group because these are the people that die from flu.” Ridenhour’s novel findings hinged on access to a comprehensive, centralized database of health records from Ontario, Canada that also recorded all vaccinations received by individuals, he said, unlike the largely undocumented vaccination process in the United States.   “It turned out that going to Ontario was great because we had data as far back as 1993, so we had approximately 15 years of data that we looked at,” he said. “It encompassed all the elderly individuals in Ontario, so that’s a really nice facet of the study – you don’t have to worry about selecting a special sub-population, we got everybody.” Ridenhour said the low level of flu vaccine success in the elderly population that emerged from the data demonstrates how urgently improvement in the vaccine is needed. Part of his current research efforts focuses on strategies for developing a vaccine that would protect against the actual strain of influenza confronted by population, instead of an across-the-board estimated strain. “There are ways that you can predict the future and improve vaccine effectiveness,” he said. “Part of it has to do with where you pick your vaccine strains from because of the way flu circulates around the globe. If you pick your vaccine strains from different places they represent different snapshots in time, so if you pick from the right places you can predict what it will be the next time. “Doing that, you can actually come up with some of these strategies where you can produce two to three alternative vaccines that have multiple strains in them and you can produce higher vaccine effectiveness in the population as a whole by doing that.” Aside from researching development strategies for an improved vaccine, Ridenhour’s next step will be to investigate the environmental factors that play a key role in the spread of influenza, he said. “Right now our focus is going to stay in Canada, and we’re going to try and take the data we have and look at other factors that might be causing illness,” he said. “The effects of the environment are much less studied. It’s hard at the basic level to figure out how effective a vaccine is. Adding in other complicated factors, such as environmental ones, makes it even more difficult. But we have this great data set that we can actually do this with.” In the meantime, the best way to improve the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine is to improve coverage and have more people vaccinated, Ridenhour said. Typically only 30 to 40 percent of Americans go out and get vaccinated each year, which allows the flu to circulate more freely in the population. “Despite low effectiveness numbers, everybody should definitely go out and get vaccinated,” Ridenhour said.last_img read more


Forget politics and do what’s right for town

first_imgCategories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionRe Nov. 15 letter, “Parties must work together in Nisky”: After reading Chief Louis Moskowitz’s comments regarding the Niskayuna election, I just had to write in. I agree with him 100 percent. I, too, felt that the two Democratic Councilwomen (Denise Murphy-McGraw and Lisa Weber) had no intention of working with the new Republican supervisor. It’s “us” against “her,” and we have the majority. Why not give this young woman (Ms. Syed) a chance? Although I don’t live in Niskayuna, I read about Supervisor Joe Landry’s retaliation against court employees wanting to use a back entrance. I think that’s why he didn’t get elected. He got a little too big for his boots.Try keeping an open mind and focus on doing what’s best for the people of Niskayuna.Lorraine VanDerWerkenRotterdamMore from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesCar hits garage in Rotterdam Sunday morning; Garage, car burnlast_img read more


Safety issue cancels game

first_imgFor the second consecutive match, the Wisconsin women’s soccer team faced a long delay before Tuesday’s scheduled matchup with Northern Iowa. However, rather than waiting out inclement weather conditions, the Badgers were delayed Tuesday due to security issues.Ultimately, Tuesday’s match was canceled as UW and Madison police continued to search for a potentially dangerous young man who was believed to be armed. “It is obviously very disappointing to not be able to play the match against Northern Iowa,” head coach Paula Wilkins said. “However, safety is the most important issue here, and nobody’s life [should be risked] for a soccer game.”As a result of the cancellation, Wisconsin will not get a chance to avenge its first home loss of the season until after the team hits the road this weekend to face Purdue and Indiana.”We have been working on a bunch of things to prepare after the UW-Milwaukee game, and we thought it was going to be a great preparation leading into the Big Ten,” Wilkins said. “[We will] focus on Wednesday practice to prepare for Purdue and keep focusing on the things that we were going to address in the match against Northern Iowa.”As of Tuesday night, no plans were made for the match to be rescheduled. Friday evening Wisconsin will return to action in West Lafayette, Ind., and square off against Big Ten rival Purdue.last_img read more