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Ice Age

By Karen Kier
Pharmacist on behalf of the ONU HealthWise team

Blue Sky Studios released five animated films in the popular franchise series about the ice age.  The original Ice Age movie was released in 2002 and featured the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, and Chris Wedge.  In 2016, the last of the movies created by the originator was released.  The movies follow a group of animals trying to survive the Paleolithic ice age.  Disney+ released a new spin-off of the franchise in January of 2022 titled “The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild.”

One of the popular characters in the Ice Age movie was the woolly mammoth known as Manfred or Manny.  In the movie, Manny would not believe the woolly mammoth could ever be extinct.  Unlike the movie, the woolly mammoth is extinct.  Exactly when the extinction occurred is an interesting question being studied by scientists.  Various fossils have been found around the world with very different carbon dating.  

The woolly mammoth, the dodo bird, dinosaurs, and the Christmas Island sandpiper may not be the only extinct species.  The CDC and the World Health Organization are researching the possibility of an extinction of the Yamagata influenza B virus.  

Articles in two biomedical journals are evaluating why the Yamagata influenza B virus has not been the cause of recent flu outbreaks.  Some researchers have speculated why the virus might be extinct. In the journal Eurosuveillance, the authors analyzed data through August 31, 2022 and reported the disappearance of this strain.  In 2018, Yamagata influenza B was responsible for over 51,000 cases of the flu.  So far this year, no cases of the Yamagata influenza B flu have been reported to the CDC.

Could the Yamagata strain be going the way of the Dodo bird or the woolly mammoth?  If so, this information could be critical in determining the makeup of next year’s flu vaccine.  

Even though the Yamagata strain has not been seen in the United States with the 2022-2023 flu season, the average number of flu cases is significantly higher than the average for the past five years.  The CDC tracks trends with laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations among adults and children through the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network.  Fourteen states provide data into the system including Ohio.  

The number of influenza hospitalizations has sharply increased over the last month in Ohio, which is a very different pattern than the average over the last 5 years (2016 to 2021).  The Ohio Flu Activity dashboard provided by the Ohio Department of Health shows an alarming trend.  The average number of hospitalizations over the previous 5 years in Ohio was less than 10 cases for the state.  Currently in the month of November 2022, the dashboard is reporting approximately 200 cases of flu-associated hospitalizations in comparison.  

Influenza A is the predominant strain causing disease in Ohio and the United States.  As of November 12, 2022, the CDC reports 75.4% of influenza A cases are the H3N2 lineage with 24.6% being the H1N1 viral strain.  The numbers support influenza A as the major crisis right now with 99.2% of reported cases being caused by this group.  Less than 1% of the cases are the results of the influenza B strains.  The Victoria and Yamagata lineages are both influenza B viruses.  Interestingly, none of the cases have been associated with the Yamagata virus.  Could it be extinct?

Twenty-two states are reporting high flu cases as of November 2022. The surge in flu is part of this winter’s aptly named “tridemic.”  The tridemic includes COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).  RSV numbers are rapidly increasing across the country especially in the very young and those over the age of 65 years.  In November of 2020, less than 1 case of RSV on average was being reported to the health department in Ohio each week compared to 191 cases for the week of November 12, 2022.  Many hospitals are stretched to their limits with RSV cases, especially children’s hospitals.  The last part of the tridemic is the continued COVID-19 infections.  Even though deaths and hospitalizations are still occurring in the United States, the numbers of serious adverse events are decreasing.  

Two of the tridemic diseases have vaccines available to prevent serious complications.  The influenza vaccine is available and the current formulation contains active defenses against the circulating influenza A virus.  The new COVID-19 vaccines have additional protection against the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.  

It is not too late to get some additional protection. Talk to your healthcare professional.  

ONU HealthWise is offering COVID-19 vaccines as well as flu shots Monday through Friday from 10:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. The bivalent COVID-19 vaccines are available.  Clinics are Monday through Friday from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Please call the pharmacy for more information.  

ONU HealthWise Pharmacy
419-772-3784

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