Saturday, May 27, 2017

CID Journal: Flu Vaccine Reduces Severe Outcomes in Hospitalized Patients


Although far from perfect, most years the seasonal flu vaccine provides a moderate level of protection against currently circulating influenza viruses. Much depends, however, on how close of a match the vaccine is to those viruses, and on the individual immune response of the recipient. 
Flu vaccines have provided reasonably good protection against H1N1 and Influenza B viruses in recent years  - often reaching  VE (Vaccine Effectiveness) Ratings 50%-60%.
The H3N2 vaccine component over the past few years has been problematic (see Eurosurveillance: Interim Estimates Of Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Against A(H3N2) - Canada, January 2017 and Branswell: H3N2 Remains the `Weak Link’ In The Flu Vaccine),  often providing only half that level of protection.

Although the elderly (> 65) are considered to be at greatest risk from influenza infection, they - by virtue of having a less robust immune system and more comorbidities - are also the group most apt to see reduced protection from the seasonal flu vaccine (see PLoS One: Limited Effectiveness Of Flu Vaccines In The Elderly & Flu Shots And The Elderly).
Which is not to say they don't derive benefits, just not as much as we'd like, considering their overall risks from influenza infection.

In 2011,  NFID - the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases - convened a group of experts to address the issues of influenza and the elderly. From that panel a 5-page brief  emerged, called: Understanding the Challenges and Opportunities in Protecting Older Adults from Influenza.

This report pointed out that although the elderly generally see less protection from the flu vaccine, older individuals may still mount a robust immune response. In populations 65 and older, the brief points out that:
  • Hospitalization rates for influenza and pneumonia are lower in community-dwelling adults who received the seasonal influenza vaccine.
  • Immunization is associated with reduced hospitalization of older patients for cardiac, respiratory, and cerebrovascular diseases.
While the goal of vaccinating the younger population is to prevent infection, the authors point out that:
  • . . . the goal in older adults is to prevent severe illness, including exacerbation of underlying conditions, hospitalization, and mortality. 
Since then, we've seen a good deal of research suggesting that even a little protection can mean a lot, particularly for those with elevated risk factors, like the elderly. In 2014, a study from the CDC: Flu Shots Reduce Hospitalizations In The Elderly, appeared to support those goals.

This past week, a new study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases suggests that even among those hospitalized with influenza, having been vaccinated is associated with less severe illness, lower mortality, and shorter hospitalization stays.

Influenza vaccination modifies disease severity among community-dwelling adults hospitalized with influenza
Carmen Sofia Arriola, DVM, PhD, Shikha Garg, MD , Evan J Anderson, MD , Patricia A Ryan, MS , Andrea George, MPH , Shelley M Zansky, PhD , Nancy Bennett, MD, MS , Arthur Reingold, MD , Marisa Bargsten, MPH , Lisa Miller, MD, MSPH

Clin Infect Dis cix468.
Published: 19 May 2017


We investigated the effect of influenza vaccination on disease severity in adults hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza during 2013−14, a season in which vaccine viruses were antigenically similar to those circulating.

We analyzed data from the 2013−14 influenza season, and used propensity score matching to account for the probability of vaccination within age strata (18−49, 50−64 and ≥65 years). Death, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and hospital and ICU lengths of stay (LOS) were outcome measures for severity. Multivariable logistic regression and competing risk models were used to compare disease severity between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients, adjusting for timing of antiviral treatment and time from illness onset to hospitalization.

Influenza vaccination was associated with a reduction in the odds of in-hospital death among patients aged 18−49 years (adjusted odds ratios [aOR] =0.21; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.05 to 0.97), 50–64 years (aOR=0.48; 95% CI, 0.24 to 0.97), and ≥65 years (aOR=0.39; 95% CI, 0.17 to 0.66). Vaccination also reduced ICU admission among patients aged 18−49 years (aOR=0.63; 95% CI, 0.42 to 0.93) and ≥65 years (aOR=0.63; 95% CI, 0.48 to 0.81), and shortened ICU LOS among those 50−64 years (adjusted relative hazards [aRH]=1.36; 95% CI, 1.06 to 1.74) and ≥65 years (aRH=1.34; 95% CI, 1.06 to 1.73), and hospital LOS among 50−64 years (aRH=1.13; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.26) and ≥65 years (aRH=1.24; 95% CI, 1.13 to 1.37).

Influenza vaccination during 2013−14 influenza season attenuated adverse outcome among adults that were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza.
  The CDC published a summary of these results yesterday:

 New CDC Study Shows Flu Vaccine Reduces Severe Outcomes in Hospitalized Patients

 May 25, 2017 – A new study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients. This study is an important first step in better understanding whether flu vaccines can reduce severe flu outcomes even if they fail to protect against infection.

The study looked at hospitalized flu patients during 2013-2014 and compared patients who had been vaccinated to those who had not. The observed benefits were greatest among people 65 years of age and older, which is notable because people in this age group are at increased risk of serious flu complications and have the highest hospitalization rate among all age groups.

The study found that vaccinated adults were 52-79% less likely to die than unvaccinated flu-hospitalized patients. In other words, an unvaccinated hospitalized flu patient was 2 to 5 times more likely to die than someone who had been vaccinated.
(Continue . . . )

While influenza is hardly a trivial illness, for those of us over a certain (ahem) age, influenza increasingly becomes a threat to life. Just 10 days ago, in Int. Med. J.: Triggering Of Acute M.I. By Respiratory Infection, we saw additional evidence that a variety of respiratory infections - including influenza - can trigger heart attacks in the elderly.

While it doesn't protect against all respiratory infections - two years ago, in UNSW: Flu Vaccine Provides Significant Protection Against Heart Attacks, we saw a study that found that if you are over 50 - getting the flu vaccine can cut your risk of a heart attack by up to 45%
Which is one of the big reasons why I elect to get the vaccine every year (see  #NatlPrep: Giving Preparedness A Shot In The Arm).

While no drug or vaccine can claim to be 100% safe or benign, flu vaccines are among the safest drugs available - and given the mounting evidence influenza's toll - the rewards for me far exceed the risks.

Hopefully - after considering the pros and cons - they will for you, too.

A Reminder About Naegleria Season


The Memorial Day Weekend traditionally signals the start of the long awaited summer swimming season - but with that comes risks - including the dangers of rip currents (see How Not To Be Swept Away This Summer), potentially serious salt water skin infections (see Vulnerable To Vibrio), and an extraordinarily rare, but often fatal, brain infection from an amoebic parasite called Naegleria fowleri
Dubbed the `brain eating amoeba' by the press - this infection is called PAM (Primary amebic meningoencephalitis) - and occurs when the amoeba enters the brain through the nasal passages, usually due to the forceful aspiration of contaminated water into the nose.  
Until a few years ago, nearly all of the Naegleria infections reported in the United States were linked to swimming in warm, stagnant freshwater ponds and lakes (see Naegleria: Rare, 99% Fatal & Preventable), making this pretty much a summer time threat.

In 2011, however,  we saw two cases reported in Neti pot users from Louisiana, prompting the Louisiana Health Department to recommend that people `use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution’ (see Neti Pots & Naegleria Fowleri).

While extraordinarily rare in the United States, every year Pakistan reports a dozen or more infections from this `killer amoeba’, as chlorination of their water supplies is often inadequate, and for many, nasal ablutions are part of their daily ritual. 

Last year we looked at an MMWR: Epidemiological Investigation Into A Case Of Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis  in California which suggested a poorly chlorinated spring-fed swimming pool was the likely source of infection and death of a 21 year old woman.  
This was also an unusual finding, and furthers the recent pattern of seeing PAM cases arise from atypical settings (Northern states, via neti pots and municipal water supplies, etc.) in the United States.
Up until a recently, infection with Naegleria fowleri was universally fatal, but in 2013 an investigational drug called miltefosine was used successfully for the first time to treat the infection.  Early diagnosis, and administration of this drug, are crucial however.

Even with this new drug, prevention is the key to saving lives, and leading the charge in educating the public is, a USF Philip T. Gompf Memorial Fund project, which was set up by a pair of Florida doctors who tragically lost their 10 year-old son to this parasite in 2009.  

As a thermophilic (heat-loving), free-living amoeba, it is hardly surprising to see that Florida and Texas lead the nation in cases over the past three decades, although infections have occurred as far north as Minnesota. 

Credit Florida DOH
The State of Florida's Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) website recommends:
The only known way to prevent Naegleria fowleri infections is to refrain from water-related activities. However, some common-sense measures that might reduce risk by limiting the chance of contaminated water going up the nose include:
  • Avoiding water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater, hot springs, and thermally-polluted water such as water around power plants.
  • Avoiding water-related activities in warm freshwater during periods of high water temperature and low water levels.
  • Holding the nose shut or using nose clips when taking part in water-related activities in bodies of warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, or hot springs. 
  • Avoiding digging or stirring up sediment while taking part in water-related activities in shallow, warm freshwater areas. 
Recreational water users should assume that there is always a low-level of risk associated with entering all warm fresh water in southern tier states. Because the location and number of ameba in the water can vary a lot over time, posting signs is unlikely to be an effective way to prevent infections. In addition, posting signs on only some fresh water bodies might create a misconception that bodies of water that are not posted are Naegleria-free.
Information about the risks associated with Naegleria fowleri infection should be included in public health messages discussing general issues of recreational water safety and risk.
When preparing solutions of tap water for sinus irrigation, the user should use tap water previously boiled for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for 3 minutes) and left to cool, use water filtered with an absolute filter pore size of 1 micron or smaller, or use clearly marked distilled or sterile water in the irrigation device. Rinse the irrigation device after each use with water that has been previously boiled, filtered, distilled, or sterilized and leave the device open to air dry completely.
For some of my earlier blogs on Naegleria you may wish to revisit:

A Reminder About Naegleria
Reminder: COCA Call Today On Naegleria Fowleri & Cryptosporidium
MMWR: CDC Imports Investigational Drug For Amoebic Infections

Friday, May 26, 2017

Rosselkhoznadzor: Avian Flu Outbreaks In Udmurt Republic - Russia

Udmurt Republic - Credit Wikipedia


For the past month we've been following two different, but connected, HPAI H5N8 bird flu stories out of Russia.  

While HPAI H5N8 is considered to present a very low human health risk, there are concerns that bird flu contaminated products might help spread the virus to poultry in currently unaffected regions.
A week ago, we learned about the detection of infected poultry products in the Kirov Region and the Udmurt Republic.
While it may or may not be related to the spread of contaminated food products, today the Udmurt Republic is reporting outbreaks of avian flu on two private farms in Malopurginskiy area.

Bird flu has reached the Udmurt Republic

May 25, 2017 in Malopurginskiy area of ​​the Udmurt Republic in two private farms registered avian influenza type A. In the study in the Udmurt veterinary diagnostic center in Izhevsk pathological material from dead birds isolated the genetic material of the virus of influenza A. To confirm the diagnosis and typing of the 05/25/2017 virus material sent to the State Organization "ARRIAH" in Vladimir. 

State Veterinary Service of the Republic of Udmurtia measures are taken in accordance with the Order of the Ministry of Agriculture of 27.03.2006 number 90 "On approval of rules for combating avian influenza." 

We kindly ask the population to adhere to the following rules:
- Avoid contact of poultry with wild and synanthropic birds: to provide watering of birds, preventing them to open bodies of water; provide under confinement birds build fences mesh with awnings; prohibited catch wild waterfowl for the content of individual farms; not to carry out evisceration of game hunting in the territory of households and not to feed the waste pet; isolated storage to provide feed indoors; organize isolated storage equipment for care of poultry, keep it clean; produce timely cleaning yards and paddocks of debris and bird waste products; to carry out feeding birds in the area.
- Ensure the separation of the different species of birds.
- Acquire the young birds and hatching eggs from safe sources, refraining from buying live birds at markets and trade in unauthorized places.
- Do not allow unauthorized persons to domestic poultry.
- Avoid eating and feeding of animals in suspect poultry disease.
- Use feathers in life after the heat treatment (scalding).
- Daily inspect all the birds in the yard.
- Prepare stock disinfectants (chloramine, bleach) and to disinfect poultry houses and equipment after their complete purification.
- Provide disinfection manure and litter by incineration or biothermal method.
- Observe good personal hygiene: care for the bird to carry out in special clothing, wash hands with soap and water after leaving, evisceration with gloves, etc.
- At the first signs of the disease and the anomalous behavior of the birds, and in case of sudden mass death should immediately contact the local veterinary service to identify the causes of the disease and to prevent epizootic.
Remember that mortality in poultry bird flu can reach 100%.

While avian flu reports continue to dwindle in Western Europe, we've now seen reports of HPAI H5 outbreaks in poultry from at least 10 regions of Russia over the past 30 days.
If that weren't concerning enough, Russia is also watching the northward drift of H7N9 in China - recently reported in poultry in Inner Mongolia - as a threat to their southern border (see China MOA: Suspected HPAI H7N9 Outbreak In Tianjin).
And it isn't lost on the rest of the world - but particularly in Europe - that the changes to the H5N8 virus that made it more virulent in birds this past winter, appear to have occurred over last summer in migratory birds in Russia,China, and Mongolia (see EID Journal: Reassorted HPAI H5N8 Clade - Germany 2016).

All of which means that increased bird flu activity across these same regions again this summer is far from a welcome sign.

Hong Kong's Flu Surge Continues, Taiwan Reporting Increased Activity


Often Hong Kong experiences a second flu season each year - but that usually occurs in late summer - not hot on the heels of the last flu season, which appeared to be over in mid April.
But on May 4th, barely three weeks after declaring the winter epidemic ended,  Hong Kong's CHP Reported A Late Season Flu Surge, and reinstated their enhanced surveillance for severe seasonal influenza.
Since then we've watched the number of severe flu cases, and deaths, continue to rise (see here and here), due to a mixture of H3N2, H1N1, and influenza B viruses. While they are undoubtedly looking closely at their genetics, we've not seen anything yet to suggest there is anything unusual about these viruses.
The latest Flu Express report from Hong Kong's CHP indicates the number of flu cases continues to increase, and now Taiwan's CDC reports they are seeing a surge in influenza activity as well.
First stop, Hong Kong. Then we'll look in on Taiwan.

VOLUME 14, NUMBER 20 (PUBLISHED ON May 25, 2017)

Flu Express is a weekly report produced by the Respiratory Disease Office of the Centre for Health Protection. It monitors and summarizes the latest local and global influenza activities.
Local Situation of Influenza Activity (as of May 24, 2017)

Reporting period: May 14 – 20, 2017 (Week 20)

  • The latest surveillance data showed that the local influenza activity continued to increase.
  • The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has collaborated with the Hospital Authority (HA) and private hospitals to reactivate the enhanced surveillance for severe seasonal influenza cases (i.e. influenza-associated admissions to intensive care unit or deaths) among patients aged 18 or above since May 5, 2017. As of May 24, 39 severe cases (including 24 deaths) were recorded. Separately, three cases of severe paediatric influenza-associated complication/death (including one death) (aged below 18 years) were recorded in the same period.

Surveillance of severe influenza cases
(Note: The data reported are provisional figures and subject to further revision)
Since the activation of the enhanced surveillance for severe influenza infection on May 5, 2017, a total of 42 severe cases (including 25 deaths) were recorded cumulatively (as of May 24) (Figure 9). These included:

  • 39 cases (including 24 deaths) among adult patients aged 18 years or above. Among them, 21 patients had infection with influenza A(H3N2), 10 patients with influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, four patients with influenza B and four patients with influenza A with subtype pending. Six (15.4%) were known to have received the influenza vaccine for the 2016/17 season. Among the 24 fatal cases, six (25.0%) were known to have received the influenza vaccine. In the winter season in early 2017, 66 adult severe cases (including 41 deaths) were filed.
  • Three cases (including one death) of severe paediatric influenza-associated complication/ death. All of them did not receive the influenza vaccine for the 2016/17 season. To date in 2017, 11 paediatric cases (including one death) were filed.
  • Enhanced surveillance for severe seasonal influenza (Aged 18 years or above)
  • In week 20, 14 cases of influenza associated ICU admission/death were recorded, in which nine of them were fatal. In the first 4 days of week 21 (May 21 to 24), eight cases of influenza associated ICU admission/death were recorded, in which six of them were fatal.
  • Surveillance of severe paediatric influenza-associated complication/death (Aged below 18 years)
  • In week 20, there were two cases of severe paediatric influenza-associated complication/ death. In the first 4 days of week 21 (May 21 to 24), no cases of severe paediatric influenza-associated complication/ death were reported. 
          (Continue . . . )

While apparently not as severe, Taiwan - whose flu season seemed to have peaked two months ago - is reporting a May increase in influenza activity as well.  The chart below comes from the Taiwan CDC Influenza Surveillance page, and shows the recent increase in influenza positive isolates.

The following press release comes from Taiwan's CDC:

In response to ongoing influenza activity in Taiwan, Taiwan CDC expands target population for government-funded influenza antiviral drugs from May 25 to June 30, 2017( 2017-05-25 )

In light of the increasing influenza activity in Taiwan, a slight decrease in temperatures due to recent cold fronts, the approaching Dragon Boat Festival that falls on a long weekend, and increased holiday travel, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) expects outbreaks of mild influenza to persist.
To mitigate the impact of influenza outbreaks, Taiwan CDC decided to expand the target population for the government-funded influenza antiviral drug use to include family members/coworkers/classmates of confirmed influenza cases who display influenza-like illness (ILI) from May 25 to June 20, 2017. Individuals experiencing influenza symptoms may visit one of the over 3,000 contracted healthcare facilities that carry government-funded antivirals in the nation for medical treatment. Physicians are urged to heighten vigilance for patients with influenza and timely prescribe government-funded influenza antiviral drugs to eligible patients without the use of a rapid influenza diagnostic test in order to ensure prompt treatment, prevent further transmission of the disease, and reduce the occurrence of severe cases and deaths.

According to the surveillance data compiled by Taiwan CDC, during May 14 and 20, 2017, the number of people seeking ER and outpatient consultation rates for influenza-like illness was 65,116, which is 2,636 more than that the previous week (62,480). During this influenza season that began on July 1, 2016, a cumulative total of 495 complicated influenza cases, including 62 deaths, have been confirmed in Taiwan and the majority of the infections have been caused by H3N2. 
         (Continue . . . )

It isn't clear what is behind these late season surges in flu activity in Taiwan and Hong Kong (and presumably, Mainland China), but with the Southern Hemisphere's flu season ramping up - and it sometimes being a harbinger of what the Northern Hemisphere might see in the fall - we'll be keeping a close eye on both regions.

Stay tuned.

HK CHP Notified Of 9 New H7N9 Cases On The Mainland

H7N9 Waves Thru May 24th - Credit FAO


With the caveat that in early April we saw a sharp drop in case reports, only to see them rise again, today's notification from China's NHFPC is the lowest weekly H7N9 total we've seen in months and hopefully signifies the long-awaited summer slowdown is at hand.

A one-week drop - no matter how steep - is far from a trend, so we'll need to see if this pattern continues. 

As the FAO chart above illustrates, after the first four winter waves, H7N9 infections all but disappeared during the summer. Last year, however, we did see a small increase in `out of season' cases (see last June's HK CHP Statement On Recent Mainland H7N9 Cases).

Although summer is still expected to offer China a much needed respite this year, there are growing concerns the H7N9 virus is becoming more heat tolerant (see Eurosurveillance: Preliminary Epidemiology & Analysis Of Jiangsu's 5th H7N9 Wave) - which, if true - could see the virus eventually become more of a year round threat. 
Today's notification of 9 cases, all male, aged 36 to 74 are widely scattered across 7 provinces (Beijing, Hebei, Jiangsu, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, and Zhejiang) with only Sichuan reporting multiple cases (n=3).
Today's notification from Hong Kong's CHP follows:

HP notified of human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Mainland
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (May 26) is monitoring a notification from the National Health and Family Planning Commission that nine additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) were recorded from May 19 to 25, and strongly urges the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.

     The nine male patients, aged 36 to 74, had onset from May 7 to 24. Three of them are from Sichuan and one each from Beijing, Hebei, Jiangsu, Shandong, Shanxi and Zhejiang. Among them, eight were known to have exposure to poultry, poultry markets or mobile stalls.

     Travellers to the Mainland or other affected areas must avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms. They should be alert to the presence of backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends. They should also avoid purchase of live or freshly slaughtered poultry, and avoid touching poultry/birds or their droppings. They should strictly observe personal and hand hygiene when visiting any place with live poultry.

     Travellers returning from affected areas should consult a doctor promptly if symptoms develop, and inform the doctor of their travel history for prompt diagnosis and treatment of potential diseases. It is essential to tell the doctor if they have seen any live poultry during travel, which may imply possible exposure to contaminated environments. This will enable the doctor to assess the possibility of avian influenza and arrange necessary investigations and appropriate treatment in a timely manner.

     While local surveillance, prevention and control measures are in place, the CHP will remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments.

     The CHP's Port Health Office conducts health surveillance measures at all boundary control points. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travellers. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up.

     The display of posters and broadcasting of health messages in departure and arrival halls as health education for travellers is under way. The travel industry and other stakeholders are regularly updated on the latest information.

     The public should maintain strict personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene and take heed of the advice below while handling poultry:

  • Avoid touching poultry, birds, animals or their droppings;
  • When buying live chickens, do not touch them and their droppings. Do not blow at their bottoms. Wash eggs with detergent if soiled with faecal matter and cook and consume them immediately. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling chickens and eggs;
  • Eggs should be cooked well until the white and yolk become firm. Do not eat raw eggs or dip cooked food into any sauce with raw eggs. Poultry should be cooked thoroughly. If there is pinkish juice running from the cooked poultry or the middle part of its bone is still red, the poultry should be cooked again until fully done;
  • Wash hands frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, before handling food or eating, and after going to the toilet, touching public installations or equipment such as escalator handrails, elevator control panels or door knobs, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing; and
  • Wear a mask if fever or respiratory symptoms develop, when going to a hospital or clinic, or while taking care of patients with fever or respiratory symptoms.
     The public may visit the CHP's pages for more information: the avian influenza page, the weekly Avian Influenza Report, global statistics and affected areas of avian influenza, the Facebook Page and the YouTube Channel.
Ends/Friday, May 26, 2017

Issued at HKT 17:33

Thursday, May 25, 2017

NOAA 2017 Tropical Outlook: Above Normal Hurricane Season Expected


Not quite 3 weeks ago, in Hurricane Preparedness Week 2017 (May 7th - May 13th), we looked at some of the preparedness recommendations for the upcoming Atlantic Tropical Season (June 1st- Nov 30th).  
At the time, early predictions (issued in April by the University of Colorado) were for a slightly lower-than-average tropical season.   But times, and forecasts, change . . . and the latest calculations now suggest a more robust hurricane season.
Today NOAA released their early outlook, which calls for between 11 and 17 named storms.  How many of those might impact the United States, and of what severity, is unknown.  But the drought of major land falling hurricanes striking the United States (the last was Wilma in October of 2005) won't last forever.
We'll touch on hurricanes, climatology, and preparedness as the summer progresses . . . but for now, we have NOAA's best guess as to what lies ahead in the following press release.  A revised outlook will be issued in early August.

While these forecasts aren't always accurate, as a native Floridian, I take the threat seriously.  Although some hurricanes don't measure up to the hype, the ones that do (think: Katrina, Andrew Camille, Donna . . . ), often exceed expectations.

And as they say, it only takes one hitting where you live or work, to have a major impact on your life.

Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year
‘Weak or non-existent’ El Nino is a factor

UPDATED: May 25, 2017. Audio from today's media call is posted to the "Resources" section below.

May 25, 2017 Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say the Atlantic could see another above-normal hurricane season this year.

Last year produced 5 land-falling storms, including Matthew that caused $10 billion in damage and killed 34 people in the U.S. and 551 in the Caribbean. It was one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes on record.

For the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.

"As a Florida resident, I am particularly proud of the important work NOAA does in weather forecasting and hurricane prediction," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. "These forecasts are important for both public safety and business planning, and are a crucial function of the federal government."

Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

These numbers include Tropical Storm Arlene, a rare pre-season storm that formed over the eastern Atlantic in April.

“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

(Continue . . . .)

As we've discussed often, you don't have to live right on the coast to be affected by a land falling hurricane.  High winds, inland flooding, and tornadoes can occur hundreds of miles inland.

While early season hurricanes are rare, they can and do occur.  

So if you haven't done so already, plan a visit to NOAA's Weather-Ready Nation Hurricane Preparedness Week 2017 web page, and decide what you need to do now to keep you, your family, and your property safe during the coming tropical season.