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Entries in Swine Flu (6)

Thursday
Aug092012

Swine Flu Cases Spike: 145 and Rising

John Foxx/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of reported cases of a variant flu strain has jumped from 29 to 145 in less than a week, federal health officials reported Thursday.

According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana accounts for 113 of the confirmed cases of the influenza A strain known as H3N2v, while Ohio has reported 30. Hawaii and Illinois have so far reported one case each.

In a Thursday teleconference, Dr. Joseph Bresee of the CDC’s Influenza Division said he believed that over 90 percent of these cases are in children. There have been two hospitalizations so far this year. Both patients, whose identities have not been released, have recovered. There have been no deaths so far.

Bresee said the dramatic increase in the number of cases could be attributed both to more cases being reported, and actual spread of the disease.

Bresee said that those who are infected likely got sick from contact with pigs -- a pattern of spread that is not unheard of, since viruses harbored by these animals have been known to infect humans. According to the CDC, this virus probably spreads through the air -- not through eating the meat of an infected animal.

So far this year, there has not been any evidence of human-to-human spread, Bresee said, but he added that he anticipates that such cases may arise in the days and weeks to come.

For the time being, he said, people should not panic. “I don’t think it’s necessary at this point to cancel swine shows,” he said.

Rather, the CDC recommends that people practice routine precautions when dealing with animals -- in other words, frequent hand washing after being exposed to animals and not eating in areas near where the animals are kept. Bresse said that children, pregnant women and the elderly should try to avoid pigs altogether.

Currently there are two FDA-approved drugs to treat the virus, and they are most effective when started as soon as possible after the illness. Rapid flu tests may not detect the virus, so if you think you may be infected, you should get testing at a state health department.

Bresee said that while the regular flu vaccine probably won’t protect people against this variant, “Everybody should get their flu vaccine.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun252012

CDC: Swine Flu Far Deadlier Than Estimated

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The swine flu virus, H1N1, may have killed 15 times the number of people counted by the World Health Organization, according to a new study. And unlike the seasonal flu, the H1N1 pandemic struck down mostly young people, many living in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Beginning in 2009, the virus swept the globe, and the WHO counted 18,500 swine flu deaths that had been confirmed by laboratory tests. But according to new estimates from researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus probably killed between 105,700 and 400,000 people around the world in its first year alone, and an additional 46,000 to 179,000 people likely died of cardiovascular complications from the virus.

That's a pretty wide gap in death rates, but it's not unusual. The numbers of flu deaths confirmed by lab tests usually understate how many people actually died from the virus, simply because most doctors around the world don't have the time or the resources to test their patients for the virus and report cases to health authorities.

"This is a problem year in and year out, from London to Nairobi," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "It's so difficult to test everyone with influenza."

The problem is greater in countries with few medical resources.

"In some countries, data on influenza are quite sparse or nonexistent," said Dr. Fatimah Dawood, the study's lead author. And she said even if a patient is tested, sometimes the virus might not even be detectable.

The study, published today in the medical journal The Lancet, is the first attempt to provide a global estimate of how many deaths actually occurred during the first year of the swine flu pandemic.

Researchers were more surprised by who the virus targeted. According to the CDC analysis, 80 percent of deaths from the swine flu pandemic were of people under age 65, not the older, frail adults who are typically the victims of seasonal flu. Geographically, 59 percent of the deaths were in Africa and Southeast Asia.

"The number of potential years of life that were lost was far higher than what we would anticipate during a seasonal flu epidemic," Dawood said.

Though the virus was deadly, the swine flu pandemic is still considered to have been a fairly mild one. The CDC calculates that up to 575,000 people may have died from H1N1 in 2009. The WHO estimates that the seasonal flu kills up to 500,000 people each year. Both pale in comparison to the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

"It just drives home how serious the disease can be -- that even the mildest pandemic we have an historic record of may have killed more than half a million people," said John Barry, author of The Great Influenza.

Taking the flu seriously also involves taking annual vaccinations seriously. The CDC recommends that everyone over age 6 months get a flu shot each year.

"This should remind us in the fall that this is the time to get vaccinated," Schaffner said. "It's the best preventive measure we have available."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan242012

Few Adults in Late 30s Got Flu Shots During Swine Flu Outbreak

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- Flu season may be a few months old, but peak season is yet to come.  And new research has found that a large number of people at risk may still be refusing to protect themselves.

Flu normally hits hardest in January or February, and infectious disease specialists say so far, this season has been very mild.  But there are reports that nine people have died from swine flu this season in Mexico -- where the first swine flu outbreak began back in 2009, ultimately claiming 17,000 lives worldwide.

Despite knowing how potentially deadly swine flu could be, a new report has found that only 20 percent of adults in their late 30s said they got a flu shot during the 2009 outbreak.

In a survey, researchers from the University of Michigan asked approximately 3,000 adults between the ages of 36 and 39 -- members of the age group known as Generation X -- questions about how they responded to the 2009 swine flu pandemic, such as how they kept informed about the illness and whether they got flu shots to protect themselves or their family members.

The researchers have been following this same group of people for 25 years, and every year they survey them about their attitudes and behaviors related to different issues. Their work is known as the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY).

According to the latest results delving into attitudes about the flu vaccine, only one in five adults got a flu shot, but nearly 65 percent said they were moderately concerned about the swine flu, and about 60 percent said they kept informed about it.

"This was the first epidemic that was relevant to this age group," said Jon Miller, director of LSAY at the University of Michigan.  "We were interested in how they used their prior science knowledge and prior education to make sense of this thing."

Adults in this age group, he explained, are very adept at gathering information from a variety of sources, including newspapers, magazines, online and from family, friends, and colleagues.

While they managed to stay abreast of what was happening with the disease outbreak, the majority of them did not get flu shots.  Though, a larger number of the cohort with young children at home did get the flu shot to prevent the swine flu.

"If they had children at home, and about two-thirds of them did, it became more relevant to them to get a flu shot," he said.

Miller added the researchers did not ask the survey participants why they didn't get vaccinated, but he and other experts say a number of factors likely came into play.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov292011

New Swine Flu Strain Keeps Health Officials on Alert

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- A new swine flu strain has infected 10 Americans since the summer, and health authorities, both here and abroad, are on the alert for more cases.

The new flu strain combines parts of a rare influenza virus -- H3N2 -- circulating in North American pigs, and the H1N1 virus from the 2009 worldwide flu outbreak. New flu strains develop when flu viruses combine in new ways. They can pose health risks because people haven’t yet developed immunity to them.

Since July, nine U.S. children and a 58-year-old U.S. man have been sickened by the new swine flu strain -- S-OtrH3N2 -- which picked up a gene from the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, according to the CDC.

“Everybody is watching,” Jeff Dimond, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said Tuesday.

Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection will follow ongoing U.S. surveillance and heed any advice from the World Health Organization, according to a statement issued Tuesday. WHO is currently working on a public health response should the virus continue spreading.

The new swine flu strain has drawn particular interest because none of the Iowa children sickened last month -- all of whom have recovered and are doing fine -- nor their families had known contact with pigs, suggesting person-to-person transmission.

“That’s the mystery of it,” said Dimond. “Flu, by its definition, is unpredictable. That’s one of the vexing characteristics of the virus.”

But so far, he said, “the virus has not shown any sustained human-to-human transference. We’re keeping an eye on it” as the Iowa Health Department leads the investigation.

Dr. Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director-general for health security and environment, told CBC News that WHO wants to be prepared, but doesn’t want to cause undue alarm when global spread isn’t a certainty. “We’re very aware that we don’t want to overplay or underlay,” Fukuda told the CBC.

International health officials need to strike a delicate balance: If they warn of pandemics that don’t pan out, as when the 2009 H1N1 pandemic barely affected Europe, they risk criticism for inciting panic and look ineffectual.

As part of routine preparedness to counter pandemic threats from new flu viruses, the CDC said it had developed a “candidate vaccine virus” that could be used to make a human vaccine against S-OtrH3N2 viruses, and has sent it to vaccine manufacturers.

CDC scientists said they expected this years’ seasonal flu vaccine to provide adults with limited protection from the new flu virus, but that it wouldn’t help children. They recommended that doctors who suspect swine flu infections in their patients treat them with Tamiflu where appropriate, obtain nose and throat specimens and send them to state public health labs, which should report them to CDC. The CDC also encourages anyone who has contact with pigs and develops flulike symptoms to get tested.

“In the meantime, the most important things people can do are wash their hands with warm soap and water,” Dimond said. “If not, use hand sanitizer.” And, he said, avoid touching your eyes or mouth with your hands, as that can spread germs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov252011

CDC: 10 Cases of New Swine Flu in Four States Since July

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- U.S. health officials remain on the alert for additional cases of a new swine flu strain that infected three Iowa children this month.

Since July, 10 Americans have been sickened by S-OtrH3N2 viruses that picked up a gene from the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. The new flu strain combines a rare influenza virus (H3N2) circulating in North American pigs and the H1N1 virus from the 2009 outbreak. New flu strains develop when flu viruses combine in new ways and can pose health risks because people haven’t yet developed immunity to them.

Of the other seven cases of the new swine flu, three occurred in Pennsylvania, two in Maine and two in Indiana, the CDC reported in a Wednesday dispatch in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In all of those cases, either the patients or close contacts had been recently exposed to pigs.

The lack of pig exposure in the three newest cases suggests that the new virus may involve limited person-to-person contact. As part of routine preparedness to counter pandemic threats from new flu viruses, the CDC said it had developed a “candidate vaccine virus” that could be used to make a human vaccine against S-OtrH3N2 viruses and has sent it to vaccine manufacturers.

One of the three Iowa children, a previously healthy girl referred to as Patient A, became sick during the second week of November. Her doctor tested her as part of routine surveillance and sent a respiratory sample to the Iowa state laboratory for further analysis. Patient B, a boy, developed a flu-like illnesses two days after the Patient A became ill. A day after Patient B became sick, his brother, Patient C, also became ill. Both tested positive for swine flu. All three children had attended the same small gathering on the first day Patient A fell ill.

After a detailed investigation, Iowa epidemiologists determined that the gathering was the only common link among the three children’s illnesses. None of their families had recently traveled or attended community events, and none of the three or their families had been exposed to pigs, according to the CDC.

Eight days after Patient A became ill, Iowa state laboratory testing indicated the three might have S-OtrH3N2 influenza. The CDC subsequently confirmed the three youngsters had the strain, which included the so-called matrix (M) gene from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

The new flu strain is resistant to two commonly used antiviral drugs, rimantidine and amantadine, but based upon their genetic structure, would likely respond to osteltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb082011

WHO Investigates Link Between H1N1 Vaccine and Narcolepsy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GENEVA, Switzerland  ) -- The World Health Organization has confirmed it is looking into the possibility that the H1N1 vaccine is linked to a rare sleeping disorder, reports the BBC.

The WHO launched its investigation after reports from at least 12 countries surfaced that there may be a link between the swine flu vaccination and narcolepsy, a condition where a person suddenly and unexpectedly falls asleep. The organization, however, says the condition has never before been linked to a vaccine.

Among those countries reporting such a link are Finland, Sweden, Iceland and the United Kingdom.

Despite the possible link, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has said that the Pandermrix vaccine is effective and should continue to be used.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio