Boys reunite with dad at Cleveland Indians game after yearlong deployment at Guantanamo Bay

first_img Written by FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailABC News(CLEVELAND) — It was Sasha Lieb’s first time at a Cleveland Indians’ game in Ohio.On Aug. 6, the 9-year-old was picked to play a fan game that involves opening briefcases for a prize.However, before Sasha started playing the game, the announcer had a little surprise for him.“Somebody special wants to weigh in on which case you should pick,” she told Sasha.She directed him to look at the Jumbotron, where he and brother Jonah, 6, then spotted their father, Tim Lieb, larger than life on the screen.“Hey Jonah and Sasha!” Lieb said.It was a nice surprise because Lieb, a U.S. Coast Guard chief petty officer, had been gone from home for a year, stationed in Guantanamo Bay, and he’d promised Sasha that they would attend his first ballgame together.Lieb then turned his son’s attention back to the briefcases, each bearing the letter K, E and Y.“I’m pretty sure you should pick letter K,” Lieb told his son.Sasha took his father’s advice and when the briefcase was opened, a message was revealed: “I’m home.”Lieb appeared at the side of the small landing where Sasha and Jonah were standing. The fans applauded and cameras flashed as the boys ran over and jumped into their waiting father’s arms.“He turned, looked at me and said, ‘Dad?’” Lieb told ABC News, “like almost in a question mark.”“I just jumped over and hugged him,” Sasha said. “I was like, ‘Dad’s home! Dad’s home! Dad’s home!’ And that’s the best prize ever.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. August 13, 2018 /Sports News – National Boys reunite with dad at Cleveland Indians game after yearlong deployment at Guantanamo Baycenter_img Beau Lundlast_img read more

Zero carbon homes plan scrapped

first_imgThe Government will no longer be introducing requirements for zero carbon homes in 2016 and zero carbon non-domestic buildings in 2019, the Treasury announced last week, as part of plans to boost UK productivity, including the supply of new build homes being delivered.The zero carbon homes policy was first announced in 2006 by the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, making Britain was the first country to make such a commitment. The move would have ensured that all new residential properties from next year would generate as much energy on-site – through renewable sources, such as wind or solar power – as they would use in heating, hot water, lighting and ventilation.The Government’s decision to scrap plans to make all new UK homes carbon neutral has been welcomed by the Home Builders Federation (HBF).“Maintaining the current energy efficiency requirements for new homes is a sensible move by Government,” said Stewart Baseley (left), Executive Chairman of the HBF. “The UK is already building some of the most energy efficient homes in the world under the current, already exacting standards, that have been developed with the full support of the industry and considerable progress is being made to deliver ever higher standards in efficiency.”Baselely said that the ‘Allowable Solutions’ approach that had been previously favoured would have imposed significant additional costs with no obvious enhancement in the energy efficiency of housing stock. However, he instead that the house building industry will continue to build on the significant progress that has already been made and continue to explore new technologies so that it can remain “at the forefront of energy efficiency in the future.He added, “Buyers of new homes increasingly consider the fabric efficiency of the house or flat when making their decision as to whether or not to purchase. House builders are well aware of this fact and are striving to provide what their customers want.”But in spite of Mr Baseley’s optimism for the move, various green groups, planners and indeed property developers have condemned the Government for failing to support the plans for tighter energy efficiency standards.Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council, said, “Let us be in no doubt this announcement is the death knell for zero carbon homes. It is shortsighted, unnecessary, retrograde and damaging to the house building industry which has invested heavily in delivering energy efficient homes. Britain needs more housing but there is no justification for building homes with a permanent legacy of high energy bills.”“The Government has not consulted the house building industry sufficiently on this sudden announcement. This arbitrary and regressive action was not mandated by the Conservative Party manifesto.”The Chancellor reportedly wanted the requirement for new homes to be zero carbon by 2016 axed because he said it would prove too expensive.But Cardiff University last week said that it had built a house that exports more power to the grid than it consumes at a cost that fell within the normal budget for social housing.The house reportedly took only 16 weeks to build and cost £1,000 per sq m.Government Treasury zero carbon homes zero carbon non-domestic buildings July 22, 2015The NegotiatorWhat’s your opinion? Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.Please note: This is a site for professional discussion. Comments will carry your full name and company.This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.Related articles BREAKING: Evictions paperwork must now include ‘breathing space’ scheme details30th April 2021 City dwellers most satisfied with where they live30th April 2021 Hong Kong remains most expensive city to rent with London in 4th place30th April 2021 Home » News » Zero carbon homes plan scrapped previous nextRegulation & LawZero carbon homes plan scrappedThe Chancellor has ditched a requirement for new build homes to be zero carbon by 2016.PROPERTYdrum22nd July 20150613 Viewslast_img read more

Report: High School Shrinking, Hispanic Population Growing, Test Scores Vary

first_imgOcean City High SchoolThe Ocean City School District got its “report card” on Friday and received a mixed bag of grades.The state uses statistics each year to give every school district in the state a “School Performance Report.” The state Department of Education released the reports on Jan. 30.“Each year the School Performance Reports present information designed to give local districts a more complete snapshot of where their schools stand in terms of how well their students are moving toward college and career readiness,” Education Commissioner David C. Hespe said. “The extensive amounts of information in the reports also provide citizens and parents with meaningful data with which to judge how well their schools are doing in educating their children.”The reports measure “a range of college and career-ready metrics” — from average standardized test scores to participation rates in various programs.Read the full school performance reports:Ocean City High SchoolOcean City Intermediate SchoolOcean City Primary SchoolAny attempt to make an objective comparison of districts and students involving so many variables should be taken with a grain of salt, but the report’s statistics on enrollment alone provide a good glimpse at some of the trends and challenges the district faces.Enrollment: The Ocean City High School student population continues to fall — despite the addition of 194 out-of-district students (most at the high-school level) as part of the new state School Choice program. Enrollment fell from 1,440 (2005-06) to 1,258 (2011-12), 1,227 (2012-13) and 1,218 (2013-14). The trend matches a general population trend in Ocean City, where the median home price is more than $500,000 without the high-paying jobs to match.Hispanic Population: The student body at Ocean City High School shows little diversity with 91.1 percent white students and 3.8 percent Hispanic students (2.4 percent black and 1.9 percent Asian). In only 1.3 percent of high school students’ homes is Spanish the primary language.  But the trend changes at the Intermediate School and Primary School levels — reflecting the growing number of young Hispanic families moving to Ocean City. Ocean City Intermediate School has 11 percent Hispanic students with 5.2 percent speaking primarily Spanish at home. Ocean City Primary School has 18.5 percent Hispanic students with 13.1 percents from Spanish-speaking homes.Some sample information from the reports includes the following: OCEAN CITY PRIMARY SCHOOLThe official summary: “This school’s academic performance is high when compared to schools across the state. Additionally, its academic performance is very high when compared to its peers. This school’s college and career readiness lags in comparison to schools across the state. Additionally, its college and career readiness significantly lags in comparison to its peers.”ASK scores: On the standardized NJASK test (for third-graders), 81 percent were proficient or above in language arts (100th percentile in peer group) and 87 percent proficient or above in math (94th percentile).“College and Career Readiness”: Apparently the only measure at the primary school level is a chronic absenteeism rate, which was high at the primary school. OCEAN CITY HIGH SCHOOLThe official summary: “This school’s academic performance is about average when compared to schools across the state. Additionally, its academic performance is about average when compared to its peers. This school’s college and career readiness is high when compared to schools across the state. Additionally, its college and career readiness is high when compared to its peers. This school’s graduation and post-secondary performance is high when compared to schools across the state. Additionally, its graduation and post- secondary readiness is high when compared to its peers.”SAT scores: The school average is 1,541 (on a scale of 2,400) compared to a statewide average of 1,514. Ocean City students averaged: 511 (on a scale of 800) in critical reading (state avg. 496); 534 on math (state avg. 521); and 496 in writing (state avg. 497). The school was in the 68th percentile among its peer group for students who scored 1,550 or better.High school proficiency test (HSPA): 96 percent of seniors were proficient in language arts (23rd percentile in peer group) and 91 percent in math (58th percentile).Post-secondary: 80 percent of graduates attend college (56 percent of them to four-year colleges and 44 percent to two-year colleges).The peer group: “Peer Schools are schools that have similar grade levels and students percentage of students qualifying for Free/Reduced Lunch, Limited programs,” according to the state DOE. Some of the schools in Ocean City’s group include Lenape, Cherry Hill East, Cinnaminson, Washington Township, Manasquan and Metuchen.center_img OCEAN CITY INTERMEDIATE SCHOOLThe official summary: “This school’s academic performance is high when compared to schools across the state. Additionally, its academic performance is very high when compared to its peers. This school’s college and career readiness lags in comparison to schools across the state. Additionally, its college and career readiness is about average when compared to its peers. This school’s student growth performance is very high when compared to schools across the state. Additionally, its student growth performance is very high when compared to its peers.”Enrollment: Student population grew from 470 in 2011-12 to 499 in 2013-14. That trend included the addition of Sea Isle City students and new School Choice students.ASK scores: On the standardized NJASK test, 77 percent were proficient or above in language arts (91st percentile in peer group) and 85 percent proficient or above in math (97th percentile).The peer group: Some school in the group include Alder Avenue Middle School in Egg Harbor Township and Woodruff Middle School in Upper Deerfield Township.last_img read more

Crew Fundraiser at Glazed Over – Saturday – February 24th 6:00-9:00 PM

first_imgOCHS Crew Fundraiser at:Glazed Over Studio704 Asbury Avenue, OCNJSaturday, February 24th, 6:00-9:00pmPottery Prices are $20.00 and upAll ages welcome!Painting takes about one hour, so latest arrival time is 8:00pm. Please RSVP which hour-long time slot you will attend, so the fundraiser runs smoothly and the staff is prepared.Time-slot choices are: 6:00-7:00pm , 7:00-8:00pm or 8:00-9:00.All time slots still available!Please either respond on FB, or email/ text [email protected] or text 856-745-2598. Glazed Overlast_img

Give the facts, not the fat

first_imgBread has been with us since ancient times, but never before has the whole industry been under such scrutiny from consumers concerned with their weight and health. Ancient Britons would probably have given Sid the Slug short shrift, but nowadays, the baking industry cannot afford to turn its back on calls to lower levels of salt and saturated fat and to help people make healthier choices.Recently, the National Consumer Council looked at the nutritional information available to customers of seven leading takeaway restaurant chains, including burger and pizza chains. The research also looked at whether healthier options were available to customers who wanted them. We found that anyone looking to find out exactly what they are eating before they order their meal in these restaurants is likely to be unlucky. Only Burger King offered nutritional information on a leaflet available in store. The others had information on their website or on tray-liners, which came with the food, but nothing was available in-store before the order was made. Agonisingly, we did find that some healthier meal options were on offer, making it all the more frustrating why easy-to-use nutrition information was not more widely available.We’ve no plans to carry out a similar exercise in high street cafés or bakeries, but if we did, I would anticipate we would find similar results. My question is why? With the growing interest in healthy eating, a company could really steal a march on its competitors by offering bread, pas- tries, sandwiches and cakes low in fat or salt and then communicating this to its customers. I know that the baking and sandwich industries have tried healthier options before, but seem to drop them quickly, when perseverance could pay dividends.Reformulation of bakery goods to lower levels of saturated fat and salt will throw up technological challenges, but it is achievable. Indeed, the Food Standard Agency’s work with industry is already showing results, with overall salt levels falling, due in part to the good work carried out on salt reduction by the industry. Reductions in the saturated fat content of pastry products may also be challenging, but not all pastries have the same level of saturated fat, gram for gram, and it is often difficult for consumers to make the healthier choice. Like many others, I cannot help myself when faced with a selection of pastries on a breakfast tray, but it would be nice to have the information to choose a lower saturated fat version of my favourite pastries if I wanted it.We feel that, in order for consumers to choose a healthier diet, they at least need to be given the facts about what is in their food. Clearer nutritional information for people eating out of the home is firmly on the political agenda. Chain restaurants in Manhattan are now obliged to provide nutritional information on menus. It is one of the points raised in the government’s recent healthy weight strategy and was highlighted by new Food Standards Agency (FSA) chief executive, Tim Smith.Supermarkets have already put a lot of time and effort into front-of-pack labelling, so shoppers can tell at a glance what they are buying. The pressure is now mounting on cafés, sandwich shops and places offering out-of-home snacks to think about what they can do to make sure customers have easy-to-understand nutritional infor- mation to hand.I appreciate that some of these things are easy to say, but less easy to do. However, rising obesity rates have led to a sea change in perception by government, media and consumers. Any competitive company looking to get ahead should not ignore the call for healthier products and better labelling.[http://www.ncc.org.uk]last_img read more

Press release: ‘Exceptionally rare’ 19th century marble sculpture‘ at risk of export

first_imgCulture Minister steps in to prevent Antonio Canova’s ‘Bust of Peace’, valued at £5.3 million, from export Bust deemed to be a significant cultural object symbolising end of Napoleonic era and return of peace to Europe after years of conflict The bust is one of Canova’s celebrated ‘Ideal Heads:’ female heads carved in marble, just under life size, representing a different conception of beauty and presented as gifts to friends and patrons who had helped him.It was carved between 1814-15 and may have been given to John Campbell, Lord Cawdor, in part to thank him for his help in repatriating art looted from Italy by the French armies during the Napoleonic Wars. It was the first such bust to reach Britain, and the first to be presented to a British patron after Napoleon’s defeat. It was displayed at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1817.Following Lord Cawdor’s death in 1821, the bust remained under the ownership of five generations of descendants in his family mansion of Stackpole Court in Pembrokeshire. However by the time the contents of the home were sold at auction in 1962, the bust’s significance had been lost. When it was sold, the head was simply described as “a white marble bust of a lady wearing a diadem,” without attribution.The location and storage conditions were unclear for the following 50 years, until its re-emergence at an auction in 2012.Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest member Aidan Weston-Lewis said: An original work by one of the greatest 19th century sculptors is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £5.3 million.The white marble ‘Bust of Peace’, made by Antonio Canova (1757-1822) has been blocked from export by Michael Ellis, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, to provide an opportunity to keep it in the country.The neo-classical bust, one of a handful of original works by the Italian neoclassical artist that remain outside museum collections, was sold to a private buyer at Sotheby’s in July 2018. Until then, it had been more than 200 years since it had last been seen in public.The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by The Arts Council. They made their recommendation on the grounds that the sculpture is closely connected with the UK’s history and national life.It can be seen to symbolise the return of peace to Europe after years of struggle and unrest during the Napoleonic era, which culminated in the Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon was defeated.Michael Ellis, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said: This outstanding bust was probably given by Canova as a token of friendship and gratitude to his most loyal British patron and champion, Lord Cawdor. Over nearly three decades, Cawdor commissioned several of Canova’s most celebrated works, including the reclining and standing versions of Cupid and Psyche, both now in the Louvre. Due to political circumstances and periods of personal insolvency, he took possession of only a few, although among them was the Amorino now at Anglesey Abbey (National Trust), the first sculpture by Canova to come to Britain. As a testament to the special relationship between a brilliant and innovative British patron and statesman and the greatest artist of his day, every effort should be made to retain the Bust of Peace in the UK”.center_img Canova is widely recognised as one of the greatest sculptors of his – or any – era. The ‘Bust of Peace’ combines a crucial moment in our history with beauty and elegance, pointing to a more peaceful future ahead. Therefore it is essential that we do our best to save this superb item for the benefit of the nation. Canova’s works are revered for his subtle artistry, sensitively working the surface of the marble, thereby giving his works a texture unparalleled by any of his contemporaries.last_img read more

Press release: Company director pays cost of staying silent in waste investigation

first_imgHands, aged 52, of Cauldwell Lane, Bitteswell, Lutterworth, was taken to court to answer a charge under section 110 (2) (b) of the Environment Act 1995 that: between 19 July 2018 and 20 October 2018 without reasonable excuse you did fail to provide facilities or assistance or any information or to permit any inspection reasonably required by an authorised person in the execution of his powers or duties under by or virtue of section 108 of the Environment Act 1995.Hands entered a guilty plea at an early opportunity and apologised for the offending.Phil Henderson, Environment Agency crime team leader, said: Craig Hands, a director of Warwickshire Wood Chip Ltd, was identified as a waste broker during an investigation across the south east into illegal waste activities.He was legally required to supply information requested by an investigating officer but repeatedly failed to do so, holding up investigations.At Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on 22 January 2019, Hands, who pleaded guilty, was fined £1,500 and was ordered to pay £2,710 costs and £120 victim’s surcharge.Wendy Foster, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, said that an investigating officer was authorised to exercise powers under section 108(4)(k) of the Environment Act to look at documents/records that were relevant to an investigation and warned of the offence of obstruction.“From the beginning of July 2018 to the present date, various reasons have been put forward to explain why documents have not been provided,” she told the court. “No documents have ever been received.”Magistrates told the court: We consider this matter as serious. The Environment Agency does a very good job and they need our full support.center_img This case goes to show that you cannot ignore the law and the people whose job it is to enforce it. We will take action when people deliberately hold up our investigations and others should take note of this.last_img read more

Joe Satriani: Leading By Example [An Interview]

first_imgWhen you watch Joe Satriani play guitar, at times you think you’re watching someone who could have invented guitar playing.The guitar virtuoso’s flair, style, technique are effortless, even at his most frenetic. He is almost second to none as far as his overall mastery of the instrument. So it would make sense that he would also be a renowned guitar teacher as well, a mentor to some of rock’s greatest axe men. Who does he give the credit to for his guitar teaching vibe?“I’d probably have to give credit to my mother,” Satriani told me during a recent break in his tour. “She was a professional grammar school teacher her whole life and had an office in our basement where they used to let me rehearse when I was a young drummer at age 9, so the idea of teaching seemed kinda natural. So when I was younger and somebody asked me for lessons, I thought, I can do that. And I remember going down to the little corner of the basement that was her office and getting, you know, couple of pencils, a ruler, and some paper, and then going up to my room to teach a lesson thinking, OK, this is what you do when you’re a teacher.”[Photo by Jon Liuni]And what a magnificent and revered teacher and player he would become from there. Joe Satriani has been at or near the the top of the list of innovative, groundbreaking, virtuostic rock guitarists since he released his first solo record Not Of This Earth in 1986. Amidst teaching riffs to some of hard rock’s best guitarists, including Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Primus’ Larry LaLonde, Testament’s Alex Skolnick, Third Eye Blind’s Kevin Cadogan, his high school buddy Steve Vai and many more, he has released 14 more mesmerizing solo records, as well as playing in rock supergroup Chickenfoot, who are mulling a reunion. Satriani brings his “From Surfing To Shockwave” show to the Lincoln Theater in DC on Saturday April 2nd.Ironically or not, it was a music teacher that Satriani hooked up with as a teen that really carved the path he would follow his entire career. After a dissapointing semester at a Long Island music college after high school, someone suggested Satriani hook up with an eclectic music teacher in Queens, not too far a drive from his Long Island home. So he took the plunge, and never looked back.“I wanted to know the secrets of music and I just wished there was someone that I could find to teach me that would not force me to change my style,” the 59 year-old Satriani said. “I knew I was a rock and roll kid, and just thought, I don’t want to just drop that and become a jazz head or a classical head or something, why can’t I just stay the way I am, ya know? So a friend says to me, call Lennie Tristano, he’s the father of cool jazz, he teaches every kind of instrument, every kinda musician, he’s the weirdest most intense guy you’ve ever met in your life. I thought, I’m game, so I started taking lessons from him, and those lessons with Lennie really changed my life, because he approached music in the way you would imagine a Yoda or Zen Master would. He was the roughest around the edges Be-Bop-era musician, and he was totally blind, he didn’t even have pupils in his eyes. He was just the most unusual character, but taught me lessons that I still work on to this day. He taught me what it was to be a musician and how to practice and what improvisation really was, and those were great lessons to learn as a teenager, they were essential.”Satriani eventually moved out to California, where both his playing and teaching careers flourished, beginning with an ultimatum from a store owner that set the stage for his next phase of successful instruction and mentoring.“I moved out to California and lived across the street from a guitar store,” Satriani said. “I’d go in there and hang out but never buy anything. So the owner came up to me one day and said, ‘If you’re not gonna buy anything, you have two options. Get out, or why don’t you teach some lessons?’ And that turned into ten years of like 60 students a week, while playing in a local band at night. But I was basically teaching guys like Kirk Hammett, Charlie Hunter, Larry Lalonde, all sorts of players that wanted to change the world in a few years. They came to take lessons after seeing me play. It was quite an interesting period there in Southern California.”After joining up with a Green Day-esque power trio in the early 80’s, what could have been bad luck turned very good when Satriani cut his own solo record during a break from his band.“I recorded a very avant garde solo EP while on break, I did all the instruments, I put together my own label, my own publishing company, I did this whole thing as like a personal project. And when I presented it to the band, they were pretty discouraged by the whole thing, and that made me really look at what I was doing with these guys in a different light. I wound up leaving the band, and I thought well, I’m gonna maybe pursue this and try to make a real record with real drums and keyboards and bass, and that became Not Of This Earth. It turned out to be the right choice, to do my own thing, although it was the product of being unlucky, as a musician, ya know. That sort of unluckiness turned into a bonanza of sorts.”Satriani’s most recent effort, the 2015 concept-album-of-sorts Shockwave Supernova, was conceptually a new foray for the guitar ace. The idea came to him from a feeling he had on stage as one of his tours was ending, and he took it and ran with it.[Photo by Chapman Baehler]“The idea basically came to me cuz I was playing with my teeth too much,” Satriani said with a likely smile, “and I thought, who’s making me do that, and obviously it was me. I’m not a lead singer type guy, I’m more of a shy retiring serious guitar player type, but one time onstage, at the end of the last tour in Singapore, I was walking on stage thinking, remember what your dentist said, don’t play with your teeth anymore. But of course I did, I did everything, I pulled out all the stops. Then I was thinking a few days after the tour that it would be an interesting concept if I was having a crisis of personality, there was a struggle inside of me, the alter ego Shockwave Supernova who would do anything to become popular, including make up a goofy name like Shockwave Supernova, would start to take over and it would have to be a struggle. And if it was musical concept, how would using guitar instrumentals, how would the two personalities battle it out. And they would basically have to argue their case through music. And so I thought, this is a great concept for me, I thought it was too complicated for the general public, but I thought if I use it just to get the project crystallized, it would be enormously artistically satisfying, and I think it would yield something very interesting for the fans. For me it helped focus the composing and the playing. It also gave me this artistic license to play freely in terms of representing different periods over the last 30 years. So I could really go retro for a reason, to tell a story.”As it has been since the beginning of his illustrious career, Joe Satriani’s creative process and philosophy is a simple one: don’t think too hard, and go with the flow. And that seems to still be working better than ever.“I do kind of just try to be as natural as possible. If I wake up in the morning and I think, the music that I write today has got to be danceable or something like that, then I just go with it. I don’t really second guess myself, because you never know, sometimes you may start out like, well, I’m gonna write a country song cuz I feel like it, and then you wind up writing music and you realize, oh this would be so much better if it was metal sounding. One thing leads to another but you really can’t anticipate how the creative mind leapfrogs from one idea to another. I’ve learned just to not discriminate against myself when I’m in a creative mood. I’m always searching for something new and exciting, so I guess that feeds the confident change in direction.”Joe Satriani performs Saturday April 2nd at the Lincoln Theater, 1215 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009. For tickets, click here.last_img read more

Hub lab writing the book on face-reading

first_imgPity the Boston car salesman who negotiated across the table from Charles A. Nelson III, a Harvard neuroscience professor who runs the nation’s top laboratory studying how people learn to decode facial expressions????Such is one ancillary benefit of Nelson’s exhaustive research, which unfolds every day in his $1.5 million cognitive neuroscience laboratory at Children’s Hospital Boston, where he studies just when and how humans learn to read faces…Read more here (The Boston Globe)last_img

Fighting the flu at less than full strength

first_img Chance for advance warning in search-based tracking method Study confirms vitamin D protects against colds and flu Everywhere you look, flu Daily or weekly dose had greatest benefit for those with significant deficiency Related On top of the flu Better late than never on vaccination, expert says Public health experts waiting for this flu season to peak will have to wait a while longer.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “flulike illness” is currently widespread in all states except Hawaii and Oregon, and by at least one measure — the percentage of outpatient hospital visits— this season has matched the pandemic of 2009, when a new virus spread around the world.“Most of January, and frankly most of this month to date, most states in the U.S. have reported high influenza activity,” said Tim Uyeki, chief medical officer for the Influenza Division of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “We don’t typically see that, all at the same time, for so many weeks in a season.”This year’s flu has been deadly for more than 60 children, including a 6-year-old in Haverhill this week. Experts who gathered for a discussion at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health stressed the importance of vaccination. Though the effectiveness of this year’s shot against the dominant H3N2 strain appears to be low, the vaccine protects against other strains. In any case, some protection is better than none, the panelists agreed.“If you don’t get a flu shot, it is 100 percent ineffective,” said Alfred DeMaria, medical director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.DeMaria reminded healthy young people who may feel they don’t need the vaccine that they can spread infection to vulnerable populations, including the elderly, the sick, and the very young.Other panelists were Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Harvard Chan School’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, and Yonatan Grad, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases.As science works to develop a universal flu vaccine, research should also be directed to improving the existing vaccine, Lipsitch said. That can be done by better utilizing technology to improve estimates about which virus will spread in the coming season, a judgment made six months in advance that determines the components of the flu shot.“That is one [area] where we can do better and it’s just a matter of improving the tools we have,” Lipsitch said.Another step would be to tweak the vaccine in order to improve the vigor of immune responses, which determines the level of protection the shot conveys. A third measure, Lipsitch said, would be to switch from the current method of growing the virus in chicken eggs to a cell culture-based system, which could be faster and less likely to promote unwanted changes in the vaccine virus.“If we can chip away at the issues of duration of immunity, breadth of immunity, strength of immunity, and speed of production, I think all of that will lead in the right direction,” Lipsitch said.While other panelists agreed that the current vaccine could be improved, Uyeki noted that flu shots, though imperfect, still prevent millions of cases of disease each year.Local public health officials are not standing still in their campaign to get people vaccinated, DiMaria said. Pharmacists in Massachusetts have been given approval to administer vaccines, he said, towns hold vaccination clinics, and campaigns go where vulnerable populations live, such as senior housing. In addition, a campaign targeted at health workers has proven effective, with more than 90 percent vaccinated today.Increased funding for research is important if the vaccine is to improve, panelists agreed, and Lipsitch suggested one possible source. The U.S. recently resumed funding research to enhance flu viruses in the lab to understand how they become dangerous pandemic strains. Lipsitch said the avenue of inquiry worries him, because it raises the specter of a release into the population with little immune protection.“In my view, [it] really puts us at risk of a dangerous accident without much helping our flu preparedness,” Lipsitch said. “There’s a real misallocation of priorities away from things that keep us safe.”last_img read more