Flu widespread in 36 states; vaccine supplies vary

Dec 18, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – Thirty-six states had "widespread" influenza outbreaks by the end of last week, 12 more states than faced that situation a week earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today.

All western states except South Dakota and Alaska had widespread flu, meaning outbreaks in at least half their regions, the CDC says in the Dec 19 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

New Hampshire was the sole state with only sporadic cases as of Dec 13, according to the report. Hawaii reported local flu activity, meaning outbreaks in only one region. Twelve states had flu in more than one area but in less than half the state (regional activity): Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Shortages of injectable flu vaccine continue in some parts of the country, CDC spokesman Curtis Allen told CIDRAP News today. "It's variable throughout the country and within states," he said. "Some areas of some states have extra and in other areas it's scarce. We've been working with the state health departments to develop redistribution plans within states."

An additional supply of 100,000 doses of adult flu vaccine that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) bought from Aventis Pasteur last week has been distributed to the states, Allen said. Other supplies of injectable vaccine that HHS is purchasing are expected to become available in January. Those include 150,000 doses of children's vaccine from Aventis and 375,000 doses from Chiron. Allen said the Chiron vaccine should become available in the first two weeks of January.

Meanwhile, some states are taking advantage of an option to buy the new intranasal vaccine, FluMist, at a discount, according to Doug Petkus, a spokesman for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Earlier this week HHS officials said they had negotiated an agreement with MedImmune and Wyeth to sell FluMist to states for $20 per dose, instead of the regular price of $46. Up to 3 million doses can be sold under the agreement.

Petkus told CIDRAP News that some states have bought FluMist at the discounted price, but he declined to say how many states or how many doses. He said MedImmune made between 4 and 5 million doses this year and had sold 400,000 doses by the end of November, before the discount plan was announced. FluMist, made with a live, attenuated virus, is approved only for healthy people between the ages of 5 and 49 years.

See also:

CDC. Update: Influenza activity—United States, December 7-13, 2003. MMWR 52(50):1232-4 [Full text]

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