Predicting what fast-mutating influenza viruses will do is never easy, but the evidence so far indicates that North America should brace for a bad year. Flu season, which can start as early as October and typically peaks in January or February, kills between 12,000 and 79,…

How do flu super-strains happen? When 2 or more strains have the opportunity to convene within one cell. Such an opportunity is created when migratory birds mix with local fowl—as when red knots from Argentina arrive on New Jersey’s Delaware Bay, a hotbed of avian influenza…

Some 12 years ago, surges in deadly H5N1 bird flu cases sparked a flurry of activity—experimental vaccines tested, antivirals stockpiled. Then it faded into obscurity; no one quite knows why. Certain things about influenza “don’t quite add up completely,” says Nancy Cox,…

The latest fix for the ultra-hacked lifestyle: Vaev, the tissue that lets you schedule your winter cold. At $80 a box, ultra-chic  tissues claims to enable getting sick “on your own schedule.” The “tissue that carries a human sneeze”—or at least a cocktail of ingredients…

Trust in vaccines is eroding to the point that they could become useless, warned an important editorial in The New York Times this past weekend.   Online, “anti-vaccine propaganda has outpaced pro-vaccine public health information”—and defense against the onslaught is too…

Before it went on to take 50 million lives worldwide, Boston’s 1918 flu outbreak started with military personnel returning home to overcrowded barracks from the Great War. The city health commissioner William Creighton Woodward had seen flu outbreaks before, but not like…

Researchers have posited another benefit of reducing obesity rates: limiting the toll of viral infectious diseases. According to a study of Nicaraguan households spanning 3 flu seasons, the influenza A virus sheds longer in obese people because of chronic inflammation…

Bill Gates announced Friday a $12 million Grand Challenge to speed up development of a universal flu vaccine, aiming for clinical trials by 2021. The seasonal flu vaccine is a guessing game in matching strain to vaccine that takes 6 months. That timeline leaves us ill-…

If humanity is lucky, the next flu virus with pandemic potential will unfold somewhere quick to catch and contain the threat—a country with a strong public health service and well-stocked hospitals.

Influenza preys on weak immune systems—and weak health systems. When the next flu pandemic hits, a nation’s successful response depends on strong health resources, infrastructure and leadership.