Flu updates: pork, vaccination, and ethnic susceptibility

January 22, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

What’s new in the flu front? Here’s the latest updates.

USDA Confirms Pork From Pigs Exposed to H1N1 Virus is Safe to Eat
Are pigs exposed to teh H1N1 flu virus safe for human consumption? The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the results of a study in December that showed that meat coming from pigs which were exposed to 2 strains of the H1N1 virus did not contain any virus at all and is therefore safe for eating.

According to Edward B. Knipling, administrator at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS):

“This research provides additional reassurance for consumers about the safety of pork. The information contained in the study will also benefit customers of U.S. pork products, both here and abroad.”

Interim Results: Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccination Coverage — United States, October–December 2009
In July, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued recommendations for the prioritization of the influenza A (H1N1) 2009 monovalent vaccine distribution. At that time, a shortage was expected. Currently, there is enough supply (even surplus?) of the vaccine. The CDC has conducted a survey to determine the exact coverage of the vaccine. Here are the figures:

  • As of January 2, about 20.3% of the U.S. population (61 million persons) had been vaccinated. This included 27.9% of persons in the initial target groups and 37.5% of those in the limited vaccine subset.
  • About  29.4% of U.S. children aged 6 months–18 years had been vaccinated.

The CDC continues:

Now that an ample supply of 2009 H1N1 vaccine is available, efforts should continue to increase vaccination coverage among persons in the initial target groups and to offer vaccination to the rest of the U.S. population, including those aged ≥65 years.

 H1N1, American Indians and Alaska Natives
Data from states in the US revealed that some ethnic groups are more susceptible to the H1N1 flu than others. The two groups identified as having higher risk compared to the rest of the population, are American Indians and Alaska Natives, who are four times more likely to die of H1N1 flu.
Says the director of the Indian Health Service, Dr. Yvette Roubideaux:

“Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against the flu. Ask your health care provider for both the H1N1 and the seasonal flu vaccine.”

Adult Immunization Schedule for 2010 Issued
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the CDC has recently issued clinical guidelines for the adult immunization schedule for 2010. Among the major revisionss compared to the previous one concerned the following:

  • HPV vaccines – for women and for men
  • measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccines
  • hepatitis A and B vaccines
  • meningococcal vaccine
  • flu vaccines

News from the flu front, December 29

December 29, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Researchers find human protein that prevents H1N1 influenza infection
A light at the end of the flu tunnel? Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute may just have found a way to prevent H1N1 flu infection. They identified a naturally occurring human protein that blocks the replication of the H1N1 flu virus. But it doesn’t even stop there. The same protein also blocks other disease-causing viruses, including the deadly West Nile virus and the dengue fever virus. The protein is a member of the Inducible Transmembrane (IFITM) protein family.

The unexpected discovery could lead to the development of more effective antiviral drugs, including prophylactic drugs that could be used to slow influenza transmission.

1 dose of H1N1 vaccine may provide sufficient protection for infants and children
Here’s another piece of good news. One dose of the vaccine may actually be enough for protecting infants and very young children from the H1N1 flu, according to a recent study by Australian researchers at the University of Melbourne. The current guidelines of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices require two doses of the vaccine for children under 9 years old.

The authors state:

“Our findings suggest that a single dose 15-microgram dose vaccine regimen may be effective and well tolerated in children, and may have positive implications for disease protection and reduced transmission of pandemic H1N1 in the wider population.”

2/3 of Australians unlikely to get vaccinated against swine flu
However, it’s not all good news from down under. Skepticism about the H1N1 flu vaccine has spread to the southern hemisphere. According to Research Australia, a survey revealed that about 65% of the population are unlikely to get vaccinated against the swine flu in the coming year. This unwillingness to get vaccinated among Australians is causing concerns among health officials who are bracing for a major outbreak in the coming winter months. Even among people with high risk profile, the rate of vaccination is rather low.

The poll found that, in terms of people at higher risk, only 33 per cent with asthma or lung disease, 45 per cent with diabetes, 28 per cent with reduced immunity, and 40 per cent with heart disease had been vaccinated.

FDA Approves High Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for People Ages 65 and Older
It’s not only the H1N1 flu that’s causing frenzy in the pharma industry. The US FDA approved last week the high dose seasonal flu vaccine called Fluzone High-Dose. The shot is an inactivated influenza virus vaccine indicated for people ages 65 years and older to prevent disease caused by influenza virus subtypes A and B.

It’s been a while since I brought you some news updates from the flu front. Here’s one just before the end of the year.

Voluntary Non-Safety-Related Recall of Specific Lots of Nasal Spray Vaccine for 2009 H1N1 Influenza
There has been a voluntary recall of specific lots of the nasal spray vaccine for H1N1. However, the CDC emphasizes that teh recall has nothing to do with unwanted side effect but is part of a routine quality assurance checks, especially for stability and shelf-life.

Flu updates, December 5

December 4, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

swine flu4It’s been a while since I brought you some flu updates… Here are your updates for this weekend.

CDC: Swine flu less widespread, down to 32 states
Finally, some good news about the flu swine from the Centers of Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). It seems to be on the wane in the US. Infection was widespread in 48 states in October and in 43 states in early November. As of November 21, it was down to 32 states. Unfortunately, the number of deaths especially among children does not seem to be waning. There were 27 new lab-confirmed H1N1 deaths in the under 18 year olds on that week, the highest weekly toll so far. There are reports that the H1N1 flu activity in Canada is also easing. In most parts of Europe, the epidemic is just reaching its peak. Health officials at the CDC, however warns that it may not be over yet. They expect to see another peak right after the Christmas holidays when children go back to school.

H1N1 activity waxes, wanes: WHO
In fact, flu expert at the World Health Organization (WHO) Keiji Fukuda believes we may not be out of the wood yet. Reports show that the flu is peaking, even waning in some areas. “I think it’s a little bit early to begin those discussions now because we are still in a period where some countries are still increasing in terms of infections, even though in some countries, such as the United States and Canada, it looks like infections and cases are going down.”

FDA Approves Additional Vaccine for 2009 H1N1 Influenza Virus
The US FDA approved another vaccine against the H1N1 flu in November. This was the 5th vaccine to be approved in the US and is manufactured by ID Biomedical Corp. of Quebec, Canada, owned by GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK).

WHO approves Glaxo’s swine flu shot
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also certified one of GSK’s flu vaccine made in Canada for distribution in 95low-income countries. This vaccine contains an adjuvant which will boost the immune system.
A batch of the same vaccine was withdrawn last month due to the high incidence of allergic reactions.

Flu.gov on Twitter
To spread the flu news faster that the flu bug is spreading, health authorities in the US is using social media particularly twitter.  The FluGov twitter bio says “One-stop access to U.S. Government H1N1, avian and pandemic flu information.”  Check out the latest webcast in a briefing by CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden.

WHO: Clinical Management of Human Infection with Pandemic (H1N1) 2009: Revised Guidance
WHO also issued a revision of the H1N1 flu guidelines which included

Photo credit:stock.xchng

Children with asthma more susceptible to H1N1 flu

November 23, 2009 by  
Filed under ASTHMA

Children have been shown to be highly vulnerable when it comes to catching the H1N1 flu. Furthermore, children with asthma seem to be more likely to develop serious symptoms and complications. This is according to a study conducted by researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The researchers looked at the charts of 58 pediatric H1N1 patients admitted to the said hospital between May and July of this year and compared them with 200 other pediatric patients who were admitted due to the seasonal flu from 2004 and 2008. The study showed that

  • Children admitted for H1N1 flu tended to be older (5 years or older) than those admitted for seasonal flu.
  • 84% of H1N1 pediatric patients had fever and cough; 37% had gastrointestinal problems including diarrhea and vomiting
  • 22% of children who had the H1N1 flu had asthma; only 6% of those who had the seasonal had asthma.
  • Almost 50% of pediatric patients admitted to the ICU due to H1N1 flu had asthma.
  • In larger samples, 21 to 30% of hospitalizes H1N1 cases are linked to asthma.

According to researcher Dr. Upton Allen

“The most striking finding in our study was the high prevalence of asthma among children admitted with pandemic H1N1 influenza compared with those admitted in previous influenza seasons. Asthma has been identified as a significant risk factor for admission with pandemic H1N1 influenza, present in 21%-30% in the larger samples.”

This finding indicates that asthma is a major risk factor for severe H1N1 symptoms especially in children, even among those with mild asthma. The authors recommend that children with asthma be considered as high risk individuals and should be vaccinated for H1N1 and considered fro antiviral therapy.

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, 138 deaths among children have been attributed to the H1N1 influenza virus infections in US from August 30 to November 14, 2009. This number could be broken down into the following age groups:

Epidemiology experts believe that the best way to control the H1N1 flu is to start vaccinating children. According to Dr. David Kimberlin of the University of Alabama at Birmingham

“Children are the highest-risk group for spreading the virus among themselves, and as a consequence, spreading it around their community… Like a bull’s-eye, the middle of the target is what you vaccinate so you don’t see infections in the concentric rings around the center. The center of the protection bull’s-eye should be children.”

Flu updates, November 10

November 10, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

swine flu4Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, Ukraine
The Ministry of Health of Ukraine reported more than 250,000 cases with flu-like symptoms this week. 235 patients have been admitted to intensive case and 70 deaths have been reported.

H1N1 infects pet cat, ferrets
Pets may also get the H1N1 flu. Unlike humans, they are not eligible for the vaccine as there isn’t enough to go around. A 13-year old cat was for H1N1 flu at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Ferrets were also reported to have caught the flu from their human families. Experts, however, believe that these cases are rare.

Venezuela: Indians Die From Swine Flu
At least five Yanonami Indians in the Amazon died from the H1N1 flu, the New York Times report. The flu has spread to the South American rain forests and is affecting the indigenous community.

H1N1 deaths highest in those 50 and older
The young are most like to get it but the old are most likely to die from it, at least in California. The analysis of California cases  revealed the following:

  • 1,088 hospitalized cases from April 23 to August 11, 2009.
  • 32% were younger than 18.
  • Median age was 27 years
  • 7% of children who died were under 18.
  • Highest rate of fatalities is 11%, among the 50 plus age group.

Most fatal cases had underlying medical conditions such as obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and gastrointestinal disease. The most common causes of death were viral pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

FDA Warns of Unapproved and Illegal H1N1 Drug Products Purchased Over the Internet
Drugs and other remedies purported to be effective against the H1N1 flu are being sold over the Internet and the US FDA has issued a warning to consumers. The FDA itself is investigating the online vendor by placing orders. The products were then analysed by the FDA labs and most proved to be bogus or impure.
According to FDA Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

“Products that are offered for sale online with claims to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus must be carefully evaluated. Medicines purchased from Web sites operating outside the law put consumers at increased risk due to a higher potential that the products will be counterfeit, impure, contaminated, or have too little or too much of the active ingredient.”

Health Canada issued a similar warning this week.

Officials Defend Distribution of Flu Vaccine to Companies
Because of the shortage of H1N1 vaccines, US health officials have to prioritize who gets the shots. Which why people are wondering why Wall Street banks are getting some of those doses in New York City, according to this New York Times report. According to a NYC health department spokesperson, the priority is to get the vaccines to “pediatricians, obstetricians, gynecologists, community health centers and public and private hospitals.” However, private companies may also be able to get the vaccine as long as the shots are given to high risk employees, e.g. pregnant women and those with serious chronic conditions. The vaccine allocation in NYC is as follows:

  • 39% for school vaccination programs
  • 21% for paediatricians
  • 19% for hospitals
  • 6% for health services employees

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What’s the latest in health care, June 15

June 15, 2009 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

world_stet21Late last week, there were several events that may have a major impact on health care so that I deemed it wise to have a special health care update post first thing on Monday morning.

What’s the latest on the H1N1 flu epidemic?

What’s the latest health-related legislations?

  • Senate passes the most sweeping tobacco-control bill
    Also last week on June 11, the US Senate passed then Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a historic and unprecedented legislation that gives the US Food and Drug Administration full authority to regulate tobacco and tobacco products. For details on the new tobacco bill, see post at Battling Cancer.
  • Rhode Island Senate passes medical marijuana bill
    Another medically-related legislation was passed last week. Rhode Island becomes the third state in the US to allow selling marijuana for medical purposes. The patients qualified for medical marijuana include those suffering from chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s disease. The marijuana will be sold by licensed dispensaries run by non-profit organizations.


Have a nice week!


Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.