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A couple of research papers I've recently come across hint to there being a causal effect existing between the severity of a cold or flu and certain physiological or psychological stress factors that a person might be experiencing. Other studies likewise hint that by just being stressed, a person is more susceptible to catching a bug in the first place! If true, then that theory may be well tested this winter as forces that often result in high levels of stress like unemployment and growing poverty have never been higher. The ILI chart here does seem to indicate that we might be in for a rougher than normal flu and cold season season.