NEWS SCAN: H5N1 in Indonesia, Thai vaccine grant, flu vaccine for tourists, Hib deaths, call for action on TB

Apr 2, 2009

Indonesian toddler dies of H5N1 infection
A 2-year-old boy from Indonesia's Riau province died last week of an H5N1 infection, the Jakarta Post reported today. An official from Arifin Ahmad hospital in the provincial capital, where the boy was treated, told the Post that the boy reportedly had contact with dead birds before he got sick. Health officials were identifying family members and others who had contact with the boy and would monitor them for 21 days, the report said. If the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms the case, it will raise Indonesia's H5N1 case count to 146, with 120 deaths.
[Apr 2 Jakarta Post story]

Thailand gets WHO grant to help produce flu vaccines
Thailand yesterday received approval for a $2 million grant from the WHO to produce a seasonal influenza vaccine and develop the capacity to make its own pandemic vaccine, The Nation, a Thai newspaper, reported today. Thailand is one of six countries that are receiving WHO support to produce influenza vaccines. Last year the country used a $2 million WHO grant to make a vaccine prototype that is in the safety-testing phase of a clinical trial.
[Apr 2 The Nation story]

'Tis season for flu vaccine if traveling to southern hemisphere
To prevent influenza in those traveling Down Under or elsewhere south of the equator, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that they receive flu vaccine before traveling to the southern hemisphere during its flu season, which is April through September. The CDC, in tomorrow's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), also recommends vaccination for those traveling to the tropics at any time of year and for people touring between April and September with a group that includes anyone from the southern hemisphere. The make-up of the flu vaccine often differs between northern and southern hemispheres, but this year it is the same.
[Apr 3 MMWR report]

Hib vaccine shortage leads to deaths in Pennsylvania, New Jersey
Two unvaccinated children in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey have died from Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and at least four other southeastern Pennsylvania youth have become infected after a Hib vaccine shortage, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday. A third Pennsylvania death is also likely linked to the disease, the story said. Some of the cases were in families who declined the vaccine for religious reasons, but officials said outbreaks of the disease in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have probably been due to vaccine shortages that developed after Merck in December 2007 withdrew 1.2 million doses of its vaccine because of possible contamination. Before vaccines were licensed for children in 1987, Hib infected 20,000 US children under 5 each year, killing 1,000. Hib, a bacterium, is not related to influenza, which is transmitted by a virus, but is so named because it was once thought to cause the flu.
[Apr 1 Philadelphia Inquirer story]

Hard-hit countries call for action against drug-resistant TB
Health ministers from 27 countries with the greatest burden of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) yesterday joined with WHO officials and others to issue a call for action against the global TB epidemic, according to a WHO statement today. At a meeting in Beijing, the officials issued a statement that all countries should work to provide universal access to diagnosis and treatment for multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB by 2015 and to remove financial barriers to TB care, among several other goals. WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said preventing and managing drug-resistant TB is a global health imperative and cannot be achieved by national governments individually. Participants in the meeting also vowed to help find the estimated $15 billion needed for the TB battle over the next 6 years.
[Apr 2 WHO statement]

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