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.
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.
May 5, 2009
A $20 chip can cut the time it takes to distinguish swine flu—aka the H1N1 influenza A virus—from days to hours, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today.
The technology—InDevR, Inc.'s FluChip—includes normal 0.8- by 2-inch (2- by 5-centimeter) lab slides featuring a pencil-eraser sized patch of tiny dots containing pieces of influenza's genome. Researchers place a drop of a solution containing a sample of chemically amplified RNA (which the viruses use to make proteins) from the virus they're studying onto the slide. Once the dots react with the solution, the FluChip is placed in a 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) IntelliChip Reader where it's scanned and a digital image is produced that can help physicians identify an influenza virus down to its subtype. The process takes about seven hours.
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.
Apr 29, 2009 | 1
Concerned over the rapidly spreading swine flu, the World Health Organization (WHO) has upped the influenza pandemic alert to phase 5, just one step short of declaring a bona fide global pandemic.
"All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, calling on government ministries and manufacturers of vaccines and antiviral meds to mobilize resources immediately to deal with the rapidly evolving swine flu outbreak.
Apr 29, 2009
A 22-month-old boy has died in Houston from swine flu as the outbreak continues to expand in the U.S. and abroad, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports today. This is not the first time swine strains of influenza have claimed lives in the U.S., but previous cases appear to have occurred primarily in people exposed to sick pigs.
The total number of confirmed human cases of the new swine flu strain in the U.S. has now reached 91, according to the CDC Web site: 51 in New York City, 14 in California, one in Arizona, one in Indiana, two in Kansas, two in Massachusetts, two in Michigan, one in Nevada, one in Ohio, and 16 in Texas. The Texas tally includes three teenagers from Guadalupe County and two small children and a 24-year-old in Dallas County, according to Emily Palmer of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Apr 28, 2009 | 1
With swine flu infections now being reported in six different countries, and concern mounting for even more, researchers are looking for ways to keep the outbreak in check. Influenza's unpredictability has stymied efforts to create a universal vaccine that could be mass-produced in advance of a pandemic threat and used to treat a variety of different virus strains.
Instead, drug companies annually try to predict which strains are most likely to circulate and then make enough of a particular flu vaccine to address those strains. Unfortunately, the wrong type of influenza vaccination provides little protection: for example, vaccination with seasonal influenza vaccine containing human influenza A (H1N1) would not be expected to provide protection against swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The H and N refer to viral proteins, hemagluttinin and neuraminidase, that help the virus infect cells and reproduce within a host. Even viruses that share the same major subtypes—in this case, the H1 and N1—can have subtler differences and a vaccine against one might not generate antibodies that are effective against the other.
Apr 28, 2009 | 1
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed swine flu cases in two more countries—the U.K. and New Zealand—bringing the total number of affected countries to at least six. Although the disease appears to be causing only mild illness in most areas (Mexico being the notable exception), experts warn the virus could still cause a catastrophic global pandemic.
Last night, there were 73 laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu (40 in the U.S., 26 in Mexico, six in Canada, and one in Spain); the tally has since increased to 79, with one new case in Spain, two in the U.K., and three in New Zealand, Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director-general for health security and environment, told reporters this morning. Meanwhile, media outlets are reporting that Mexico may have as many as 2,000 suspected cases and 150 deaths.
Apr 26, 2009 | 17
U.S. officials declared a public health emergency today over swine flu, now that 20 cases of the illness have been confirmed in the country, with 80 dead and 1,300 infected in Mexico.
Twenty cases—in California, Kansas, New York State and Texas, although none fatal—may not sound like a lot, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acting director Richard Besser told reporters in Washington, D.C., that is probably just the beginning. “We are seeing more cases of swine flu,” Besser said. “We expect to see more cases of swine flu. As we continue to look for cases, I expect we’re going to find them.”
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