We're wrapping up a second full flu season in the middle of a pandemic, and like 2020-2021, the latest season has proven to be thankfully light, with just 5.2 hospitalizations for the flu per 100,000 people -- the lowest rate in years.
It's a good thing because new findings suggest the vaccine developed for this season was not a particularly good match for prevailing strains. Flu shots did not reduce the risk of mild or moderate flu caused by the H3N2 virus, though it's not clear yet whether they prevented severe flu outcomes.
Each year, flu vaccine developers must predict which viral strains are likely to be most prevalent and plan accordingly. Efficacy typically ranges between 40% and 60%.
Body of Knowledge
The human eye may not rival those of some animals, but it's still very sensitive to light, able to detect even a handful of photons or light particles. On a dark, clear night, it can see a candle flame flickering up to 30 miles away and perceive city lights hundreds of miles distant. The farthest object visible with the naked eye is the Andromeda galaxy, located 2.6 million light-years from Earth.
Get Me That, Stat!
One in 10 children in the United States experiences food insecurity: Limited or uncertain availability of safe and nutritionally adequate foods, according to the National Health Interview Survey.
44.5: Percentage of U.S. adolescents and adults in 2007 who visited the dentist in the past year
42.1: Percentage who did so in 2012
49: Target percentage for 2020 (data not yet released)
Source: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Phobia of the Week
Climacophobia: fear of stairs, climbing or falling down them
Doctor: "You're really going to need to work on your posture."
Patient: "Bah. I've been this way all of my life, and nothing bad has happened."
Doctor: "Good posture is important. It reduces lower back pain, headaches and tension in your neck and shoulders, increases lung capacity, improves circulation and digestion and boosts energy levels."
Patient: "I stand corrected."
Geographic tongue syndrome is a harmless but inflammatory condition in which lesions develop on the tongue, forming red and white patches that can resemble geographic masses on a map. The lesions can change shape and location, a little like an oral version of plate tectonics. The cause of GT is unknown, though stress, allergies, hormonal disturbances and nutritional deficiencies may be associated. If it persists, patients are advised to consult their doctor or dentist for more serious underlying conditions.
"Mental health problems don't define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but, importantly, YOU ARE NOT THE RAIN." -- English novelist Matt Haig
This week in 1972, Lewis Toppel of Chicago received a patent for his smoking deterrent: a pseudo-cigarette package that produced simulated coughing sounds when it was picked up or opened. According to the patent abstract, "The simulated coughing noises are produced from a battery-driven disk recording played through a miniature loudspeaker in the package. A unique actuating lever arrangement enables the almost instantaneous replaying of the record each time the package is moved."
Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like "nonlinear dynamics." Sometimes they don't, and yet they're still hard to figure out. Here's an actual title of actual published research study: "Simple exercises to flatten your potential."
It sounds like a headline from the cover of a health or fitness magazine, but it's from the journal Physics Review D and discusses inflationary potential in cosmology, i.e., the expanding universe, which is growing as steadily as our waistlines.
Eating before bed and sleep does not make you overweight. The real key is to avoid consuming too many calories throughout the day or indulging in a poorly balanced diet, though junk food tends to be what people eat closer to bedtime.
If you're hungry near bedtime, eat a small, protein-packed snack, such as nuts, which may actually boost your metabolism and burn a few more calories.
"Milan: What a beautiful place to die." -- American actor John Carradine (1906-1988). The 82-year-old Carradine died from multiple organ failure at a local hospital. Earlier in the day, he had climbed the 328 steps to the top of Milan's cathedral.
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