The Flu–It’s Not Just About Pandemics

For October 10, 2018        
To paraphrase Ted Sorensen:
Ask not what the flu can do to you,
Ask what you can do to fight the flu.
Actually, it’s a good idea to ask what the flu can do to you. 
As with the age-old old-age question of “Boxers or Briefs?”, the answer sometimes is, Depends.
First, as we heard last week, the flu can kill you. The flu can kill in large numbers: 80,000 Americans this past flu season; millions worldwide in pandemic years.
Second, the flu can knock the sox off you, maybe for a day, sometimes for longer. And as the very bad virology joke goes:  seven days of the flu makes one weak. 
Third, even if you dodge the flu, if a member of your family isn’t so lucky, you may find yourself home from work nursing your sick child.
Finally, even if you dodge the flu and your family too, if some of your co-workers get hit with the bug, then their absence can screw up your work schedule.   
Flu is a public health puzzle as well as a public health parable, and what we learn year by year by year helps us to parse the Protean virus and to impede the spread of this fickle disease.
This week (October 10Pete Shult and Tom Haupt of the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene tune us in to how 10 decades of wrangling with the antigenic drift, the antigenic shift, and the host-hopping of the flu virus have challenged public health agencies to invent & refine strategies to manage seasonal influenza and other emerging viruses.   
This talk is the second in a series of three this fall commemorating the centennial of the Pandemic of 1918-1919.
Here’s how Pete & Tom describe their talk, entitled 
“Influenza: It’s Not Only About Pandemics”:
We will focus on the ongoing threats influenza pose in addition to pandemics. Last year was a historically bad year for flu, with many lessons learned that could be applied to pandemic response. We will focus on the virologic causes of seasonal vs pandemic flu; on treatment and prevention; and most importantly, on the considerable surveillance infrastructure we have developed to track flu and detect new pandemic strains.
Next week (October 17), Gerry Campbell, emeritus of both UW-Madison and UW-Extension, and I will talk on “The Old Wisconsin Idea and the New UW Cooperative Extension. ”  This spring WARF launched a series of essays & op-eds emphasizing the university’s roles in innovation, technology transfer and entrepreneurship. Former governor Tommy Thompson in his essay (co-authored with Mike Sussman of the Biotech Center) referred t“a new Wisconsin Idea.”
We’ll be looking at the origins of the old Wisconsin Idea and offering alternative visions, some complementary and some competing, for the Wisconsin Idea in the coming years.  We’ll review the changes since February 2015 of UW-Extension, the re-organization of Cooperative Extension, the elimination this year of UW-Extension & UW Colleges, and the future for Cooperative Extension as it returns to UW-Madison for the first time since the mid-1960’s.  
As I note from time to time, I am not from Wisconsin;  I am from Illinois.  I also note from time to time that there is no “Illinois Idea” — and I say that as an alum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Nevertheless, I know of no other state university that has a brand or a mantra for its public service mission that animates the life and elevates the mission of a land-grant university quite the way “The Wisconsin Idea” does here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  
Also, this week features the four-day state-wide run of the Wisconsin Science Festival.  Check out for intriguing science programs running October 11-14.  
For example, I’ll be at Schuster’s Farm near Deerfield from 1 to 2pm leading activities on “Sharing Science with Children & Grandchildren.”  I’ll be reprising some of our best stuff from the Biotech Major at Grandparents University.  

Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Cooperative Extension