Vintage instructions for making a smoker's influenza mask

"It's all very well to use an influenza mask. But what if you want to smoke? Edward T. Duncan has supplied the answer. First, buy two-corn plasters at the drugstore. You may not see the relationship between a corn plaster and the influenza. Wait a minute. Hasn't the plaster an opening for a corn? Well, that whole can be made to fit a cigar or a cigarette."

[via Bruce Sterling] Read the rest

The Center for Disease Control's realistic new comic about swine flu and a state fair

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published a free graphic novel titled "The Junior Disease Detectives: Operation Outbreak," some of which is set at a state fair where a teenage 4-H member is infected with swine flu. As CNN reports, the comic's plot is similar to what actually happened this summer at two state fairs. From CNN:

At the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, which took place in San Luis Obispo County from July 18 through 29, two people fell ill after attending the fair. Similarly, two attendees of the Fowlerville Family Fair in Michigan, which took place in Livingston County from July 23 through 28, also became sick in the days after.

Public health disease detectives in both states immediately tested the patients for variant influenza virus, a flu strain that normally circulates in swine but not people. Person-to-person transmission of variant strains is uncommon, and you cannot catch this type of flu from eating pork.

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The science of flu season

Flu season is in winter. Okay, great. But why? (Consider this an open thread for all your favorite humidifier recommendations.) Read the rest

Why has this flu season been so mild?

Short answer: We don't know. Despite its ubiquity, there's a lot scientists don't know about the influenza virus. Helen Branswell is a great medical reporter. In this piece for the Winnipeg Free Press she explains why the flu virus makes seemingly simple questions frustratingly difficult to answer. Read the rest