Is it possible to get two different strains of flu in the same season? Yes. The first word that influenza experts use to describe the illness is “unpredictable.”

In a normal flu season, at least three strains circulate. Flus mutate as they pass through human hosts.

Recent flu seasons have included two influenza A strains and a B strain. The H1N1 strain of influenza A now circulating is a very distant descendant of the 1918 Spanish flu and a more recent variant of the 2009 swine flu. The H3N2 strain is a descendant of the 1968 Hong Kong flu. Any one of the three can make you sick, and they are so different genetically that having had one does not protect you against the others.

 

Blood pressure, diabetes link

Lowering blood pressure can significantly cut the risk for many of the complications of Type 2 diabetes, a review of data from 40 trials involving more than 100,000 people with diabetes has found.

Diabetics are more vulnerable to the effects of hypertension than otherwise healthy people. Recent guidelines suggest that a systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 140 is a good goal for people with diabetes, but the new study found that 130 or even lower may be better.

The study, published in JAMA, found that a 10-point drop from 140 was associated with a 13 percent reduction in the risk of death. The risk of coronary heart disease fell by 12 percent, and the risk of stroke by 26 percent.

 

Take a seat in the sauna for health

Frequent saunas may help you live longer, a study of Finnish men suggests. It would be welcome news if proven true — in Finland where saunas are commonplace, and for Americans shivering in a Nordic-like winter.

Previous research suggested that saunas might improve blood vessel function and exercise capacity, and lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. The new study links long, hot sauna baths with even more benefits, including fewer deaths from heart attacks, strokes, various heart-related conditions and other causes.

 

Folic acid a huge success story

Preventing certain devastating birth defects has become as easy as pie crust — and bread, cereal, pasta, and other grain products.

Seventeen years after the government required the addition of folic acid to enriched cereal grains, fortification spares 1,300 babies a year from being born with brains or spinal cords that are not fully formed, a new analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Averting those neural tube defects saves $508 million annually — not to mention untold heartache.

 

New virus linked to tick bite

U.S. health officials are investigating a new strain of virus linked to the death of a Kansas man who fell ill after being bitten by a tick, then went into organ failure and died about two weeks later.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s working with Kansas officials to find more cases. They’ve named the virus “Bourbon” after the county where the man lived.

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