Flu News Text
A Seasonal Vaccine Provides the First Defense Against the Swine Flu
A Seasonal Vaccine Provides the First Defense Against the Swine Flu
In Washington on July 24th, a new proposal was made in the defense against the swine flu. U.S. health officials announced their recommendations that all children aged 6 months to 18 years should be immunized with the seasonal flu vaccine. The decision was made with particular attention to the H1N1, or swine flu pandemic.
Although the seasonal vaccine provides little or no protection against the swine flu, immunization can defend against infections from both flu strains at once. This will help minimize the effects of the pandemic on workplaces, schools, and the general economy according to health experts.
According to Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Vaccination against seasonal influenza should begin as soon as the vaccine is available and continue throughout the influenza season."
"At this point, 83 percent of the population is recommended to get an annual flu vaccine," she stated. "Unfortunately, only about 40 percent of the U.S. population received the flu vaccine last year."
Last year, the CDC "encouraged" that all children receive the vaccination. This year, it "recommends" that children be vaccinated instead. Even though this suggestion has no force of law, it can surely affect the decisions of states and insurers.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials said that they would participate with the companies and the National Institutes of Health in order to quickly test experimental H1N1 vaccines. The intention is to get a vaccination plan started as soon as possible.
"We are continuing to see transmission here in the United States in places like summer camps, some military academies, and similar settings where people from different parts of the country come together," Schuchat said.
"I think this is very unusual to have this much transmission of influenza during the (summer), and I think it's a testament to how susceptible people are to this virus."
JUST THE BEGINNING
As reported by the CDC, 43,771 cases of H1N1 influenza were officially confirmed, with 302 deaths.
"But... that's really just the tip of the iceberg," Schuchat said. "We believe there have been well over 1 million cases of the new H1N1 virus so far in the United States."
Schuchat stated that the CDC would cease to report cases and was pursuing a better way to estimate the number of people infected.
The virus spread globally in under two months, having infected people in 160 countries while killing 800 people, the World Health Organization said. Its numbers do not include the latest CDC numbers.
Schuchat announced that there is no indication that the virus is better or worse in the varying countries.
"There are differences in reporting. In some places, we're hearing about only the severe cases. In other places, we're hearing about illness that's in the community," Schuchat said.
She did not say that the pandemic was "mild." Many people had died, and others had spent weeks in hospitals, many of them on ventilators.
She said that the CDC is also looking out for more cases of seizures. The agency reported that four children who had seizures from the H1N1 virus were able to recover.
Schuchat urges summer camps not to offer the antiviral drug oseltamivir, a form of Tamiflu that prevents infection among children.
"At this point, we're strongly recommending them for treatment rather than for prevention," she stated.
"To prevent the flu, the drugs should be saved for people at high risk of complications who have been in close contact with a known case," Schuchat said.
Australia Continues the Fight Against the Swine Flu
As one of the countries hit the hardest by the Swine Flu, Australia has become a global case study, with the United States and Europe closely watching as it fights the illness in the southern hemisphere winter.
The outbreak in Australia began in early May when the country entered its annual flu season. Infections sped up so quickly that, in just one month, Melbourne became the world's "swine flu capital" with the highest concentration of cases anywhere in the world.
More than 16,000 cases and 40 deaths later, Australia's experience with the swine flu has provided multiple lessons for northern countries about to experience fall and winter.
University of New South Wales epidemiologist William Rawlinson said, "What's happening in Australia now and the evidence that the number of cases of swine flu has significantly increased as winter's become colder is exactly what we expect in the northern hemisphere during the winter."
"So certainly lots of people in the northern hemisphere, Europe, and the United States, are very interested in what happens here."
Australia has gone to great lengths to fight the virus. Ranging from reminding people to wash their hands to closing schools and organizing plans for a mass immunization program for the entire population, Australia has planned for a multitude of situations.
Officials have been forced to fine-tune their response as the threat grew, concentrating mainly on the most vulnerable groups, made up of pregnant women and those who are already experiencing medical problems.
They have also warned the disadvantaged Aboriginal community and took note that the disease began attacking a rising number of fit and young people.
"Australia has seen you do have to change your response and get that message out to the public and the health community," Rawlinson said. "The issues have to be very clear – otherwise, people get confused."
"As deaths rise and as critical care becomes more important you have to respond to that, and that's one thing we've done very well in Australia."
The Influenza Specialist Group advisory panel said that initial measures to stop the virus from spreading have proved to be futile, including monitoring at ports and airports and shutting down schools.
He also said that the disease could become more infectious by wintertime in the northern hemisphere. World health experts are afraid that there may be a repeat of the devastating Spanish and Asian influenza pandemics of 1918 and 1958.
Hampson said, "It requires only a couple of points of mutation to acquire additional transmission capacity – maybe that's what we're seeing now, we just don't know," Hampson said.
"Maybe by the time it gets to the northern hemisphere this virus will be much more able to spread."
In speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Anne Schuchat of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said, "Whether it's here in the United States or in places like Argentina or Australia, there is a way that we handle any types of medical challenges."
According to Hampson, northern countries had a big advantage unavailable in Australia going into the flu season with human testing for a swine flu vaccine underway.
"The northern hemisphere will have a vaccine, which will be a major benefit that we haven't had," he said.
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