Health Buzz: Swine Flu Pandemic Is Over

Sleeping soundly linked to brain activity; sisters bring happiness.

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Swine Flu Pandemic Is Over

The swine flu pandemic is over: The H1N1 virus has "largely run its course," Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, said in a statement on Tuesday. Although the virus has not disappeared, it will probably behave like other forms of seasonal influenza and circulate for several more years. Younger age groups are most susceptible to infection; high-risk groups, including pregnant women, should continue seeking vaccination, Chan said. This year's seasonal flu shot, which has been approved by the FDA and shipped to distributors, will also protect against H1N1. At least 18,449 people have died of swine flu since the outbreak began in April 2009, according to the WHO.

Sound Sleep Linked to Brain Activity

There are two types of sleepers in the world: those who wake easily, and those who snooze through sirens, car alarms, thunderstorms, and other disruptions. The difference, according to a study published Tuesday in Current Biology, lies in the brain. Harvard Medical School researchers found that people with a large number of spindles—bursts of high-frequency activity originating from the thalamus, at the top of the brainstem—are likelier than others to sleep deeply, even through a noisy night. The study is the first to prove the link between spindles and a sleeper's vulnerability to sound, though researchers don't know why some people generate more spindles than others. The findings could ultimately lead to the development of drugs, therapy, or electronic devices used to improve sleep quality, BBC News reports.

Sisters Bring Happiness

Parents spend a lot of time dealing with arguing and other nastiness between siblings. But having siblings can save teenagers from negative emotions, and encourage them to be more kind and generous, U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute writes."As a parent, it's really good to know that sibling affection is related quite strongly to helping, generosity, kindness," says Laura Padilla-Walker, a professor at Brigham Young University who studies the effects of sibling relationships. "We often don't see them [as] a protective factor."

Padilla-Walker studied 395 families that had at least one child between the ages of 10 and 14, interviewing family members twice, one year apart. The study, which was published in the August issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, found that having an affectionate teenage sibling helped younger teens avoid feelings of loneliness, guilt, and self-consciousness. The results were adjusted to remove the effects of parental influence. [Read more: Sisters Bring Happiness.]

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