Sep 15, 2009 | 20
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the long-awaited vaccines for the H1N1 "swine" flu virus this afternoon. It is expected to be available in a month at about 90,000 locations nationwide, the Associated Press reported.
"We will have enough vaccine available for everyone," Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary, said in an address to Congress today, the AP reports. The government, which does not expect everyone to get the vaccine, has an order out for 195 million doses, but only about 45 million are expected to be available by mid-October. The announcement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last week that one dose is sufficient to protect against the virus means supplies will be more robust than they might otherwise have been. Nevertheless, the government is prepared to order more if necessary.
Aug 25, 2009 | 8
The H1N1 swine flu could kill as many as 90,000 Americans and land up to 1.8 million in the hospital, according to a report issued yesterday by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).
The findings are "not a prediction," the authors make clear, but rather "a plausible scenario" to help ready the country's government and health care system.
The advisors estimate that 40 to 60 percent of the U.S. population could contract the virus this fall and winter, compared with the average of 5 to 20 who get the seasonal flu. "The absolute number of deaths is expected to be at least as high, if not substantially higher than for the seasonal flu," simply because more people are likely to get the H1N1 swine flu than the seasonal flu, the authors write.
Jul 31, 2009
The Mexico City government announced a plan this week to boost tourism in response to the negative impact of the H1N1 “swine” flu. The city will pick up medical costs for any guest who gets sick while visiting.
Since the initial outbreak of swine flu in Mexico earlier this year, occupancy in Mexico City’s 470 hotels has dropped to as low as 5 percent and is currently at 59 percent, according to USA Today. The government hopes to boost the number of visitors by offering health insurance for anyone who stays in the city between Aug. 1 and the end of the year.
“We want to send the message that Mexico City is a secure place that will protect its visitors,” city tourism minister Alejandro Rojas Díaz told the New York Times.
Jul 29, 2009 | 9
Here is who should be first in line this fall when the H1N1 vaccine becomes available, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced today: Pregnant women, all children (except those under six months old), teens and young adults up to 24 years old, people with babies under six months old, health care workers and nonelderly adults who have underlying medical conditions.
“We really should go out full force to make sure these groups get addressed,” Anne Schuchat, the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease director, said at a press conference in Atlanta, Ga.
The entire group, estimated to sum up to just under 149 million people, will be the primary targets for the first rounds of vaccine but in no particular order. Only in rare situations of shortages, Schuchat noted, would certain sectors within that larger group be prioritized (bringing the total number of the core down to about 41 million).
Jul 21, 2009 | 2
The first vaccines against H1N1 in humans will be put to the test starting tomorrow. The Australia-based pharmaceutical company CSL, Ltd., will commence the trials in Adelaide by giving 240 healthy volunteers the shot, Bloomberg News reported today.
“The world will be watching to see the immunogenicity results of this first clinical trial,” the World Health Organization (WHO) director of vaccine research told Bloomberg. The crucial result she refers to is exactly how much antigen it will take to fend off the virus. And that amount, the report notes, will provide more concrete data about how many doses companies will be able to make this year. The WHO has recommended that when a vaccine does become available, healthcare workers be the first in line to receive it.
May 15, 2009 | 1
Heads up, America, the wave-making health commissioner from the Big Apple is heading to Atlanta to run the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The White House tapped Tom Frieden, controversial commish of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as head of the CDC, where he'll start working early next month.
He's been a tough guy on public health issues in New York, pushing past opposition to ban transfats in restaurants and require calorie counts on the menus of chains, and raising an alarm (some say prematurely) about a multidrug resistant strain of HIV.
Supporters say he gets results. Critics say his focus on ends has justified some questionable means. “He doesn’t hesitate to use public health policy to kind of step all over civil liberties," a spokesperson for Housing Works, a nonprofit agency for homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS, told The New York Times.
May 8, 2009 | 11
School closures, canceled proms, and emergency rooms flooded with people panicking over run-of-the-mill coughs and sore throats. Have people gone hog wild over the so-called "swine flu," and is the media to blame for fanning the flames of fear?
The media hype, in particular, has drawn heavy criticism from the Los Angeles Times's James Rainey, who recently highlighted headlines like "Bracing for the Worst" (CNN) and other examples of fear mongering. Others, such as the reporters and editors quoted in this piece by Editor & Publisher, say it has been appropriate and measured.
May 4, 2009 | 7
Last Friday, we reported on Egypt's recent attempt to curb transmission of the human H1N1 epidemic by butchering all 300,000 of its pigs. Experts we interviewed said there was no sound rationale for such a move, because pigs had never been infected with the new virus, which has sickened at least 1085 people in 21 countries – until now.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recently announced that a herd of pigs in Alberta might have caught the new virus from a Canadian who had recently spent time in Mexico, ground zero for the current epidemic. Fortunately, both man and pigs have recovered or are in the process getting better, but the incident raises a new question: do pigs now pose a threat to humans?
Apr 29, 2009 | 6
As the World Health Organization (WHO) today acknowledged the spreading swine influenza virus by moving the pandemic threat awareness level up one notch to 5, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) worked to get drug companies the materials they need to create a vaccine. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it is unlikely that any new swine flu vaccine would be included in the batches of seasonal influenza vaccines already in production for the typical August vaccine ship date.
CDC and others are working to create the virus reference strain by the end of May that drug companies need to make a vaccine, says Bruce Gellin, director of HHS's National Vaccine Program Office and the agency's deputy assistant secretary for health. Once these companies make the necessary adjustments to their facilities and processes (which usually takes two or more weeks), he adds, they begin developing a pilot vaccine that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) tests to determine the amount of antigen per dose and number of doses, as well as information on safety.
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