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What Happened to the Swine Flu Epidemic?

The Swine Flu "epidemic" seems to be over, for now: Unused H1N1 vaccine is being stockpiled in warehouses across the US. Some of it expires in March, although most will be effective through May. What happened (or didn't happen)?

One major concern was that children are twice as likely as adults to catch swine flu. A study of more than 800 people in the UK found that one in eight people developed the infection after someone else in their house, often a child, got it. This is partly caused by the fact that, despite the fact that more children die from it than adults, many children who have been infected do not display symptoms.

In the Intelligencer on Phillyburbs.com, Jo Ciavaglia reports that some health officials think that the waning interest in Swine Flu could be because most people have either gotten sick or been vaccinated.

Chinese medical specialists have announced that they have developed an herbal remedy called "Jin Hua Qing Gan Fang" to treat H1N1 (Swine) flu. The current recommended medicine for Swine Flu, tamiflu, ALSO comes from a plant grown in China.The Life Extension website quotes researcher Wang Chen as saying, "It can shorten patients' fever period and improve their respiratory systems. Doctors have found no negative effects on patients who were treated in this way. It is also very cheap, only about a quarter of the cost of Tamiflu." However, many herbal remedies are not effective: Older adults who used the herbal supplement Ginkgo biloba for several years did NOT have a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to adults who received placebo. While some types of Chinese medicine work, this is one that doesn't.

Researcher Beth E. Snitz says, "Ginkgo biloba is marketed widely and used with the hope of improving, preventing, or delaying cognitive impairment associated with aging and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Indeed, in the United States and particularly in Europe, G biloba is perhaps the most widely used herbal treatment consumed specifically to prevent age-related cognitive decline." However, after a long clinical trial, her team was forced to admit that, "In sum, we find no evidence that G biloba slows the rate of cognitive decline in older adults."

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