SWINE FLU BREAKING NEWS: Cases top 2,000, potential global burden, farm residents test negative, USAID efforts, vaccine contract

May 7, 2009

The global illness count for the novel H1N1 swine influenza climbed to 2,099 confirmed cases with 44 deaths in 23 countries early today, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported. That included 1,112 cases and 42 deaths in Mexico and yesterday's US count of 642 cases and 2 deaths. Spain reported 73 cases and the United Kingdom 28. [WHO update 19]

The US swine flu case count jumped to 896 cases in 41 states this morning, an increase of 254 cases since yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported. The number of affected states was the same as yesterday (41), and the death toll remained at 2. [CDC swine flu page]

If the swine flu epidemic evolves into a full-scale pandemic, the record of past pandemics suggests it would be reasonable to estimate that perhaps as many as a third of the world's population could become infected, Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the WHO said at a press briefing today. But he said he was not making a prediction, only noting the historical pattern. "We live in a different world" today, and no one knows what will happen, he added. Fukuda said he wanted to explain the seriousness of the threat because the WHO has been getting questions about why it is paying so much attention to the virus.

Health officials in Canada yesterday said recently sick people who live on a farm where pigs were infected with the swine flu virus tested negative for the virus, including the carpenter who worked near the pigs when he was sick after traveling to Mexico, the Canadian Press (CP) reported. However, David Butler-Jones, MD, Canada's chief public health officer, told the CP that "sampling" issues might have affected the test results and antibody tests will be conducted to confirm whether the farm residents were infected with the new virus.

Yesterday in testimony before a House foreign affairs subcommittee, Dennis Carroll of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) detailed US efforts to help global agencies respond to the swine flu epidemic. USAID has provided $5 million to help the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization beef up detection and control efforts in Mexico, sent 100,000 sets of personal protective equipment to surveillance workers and first responders in Mexico, and provided support for swine surveillance in Mexico and Central America. Carroll told legislators that USAID has also established its own H1N1 task force and has activated a response team to address the humanitarian needs of 1 billion people in developing countries. [May 6 USAID statement]

Two infectious disease experts are warning people against intentionally getting infected with the swine flu as a hedge against getting sick with a potentially more lethal strain of the virus in the months ahead, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. William Schaffner, MD, a flu immunization expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, told the AP that an individual's response to a particular flu virus is unpredictable and could involve life-threatening complications. He also said infected people can unintentionally spread the virus to more vulnerable populations. [May 7 AP story]

Vical Inc., a San Diego vaccine company, announced yesterday that it signed an agreement with the US Navy Medical Research Center to speed the development of a DNA-based vaccine against the swine flu virus. The vaccine would contain Vaxfectin, the company's proprietary adjuvant, which it has used in its DNA vaccine against the H5N1 avian influenza virus. The company did not disclose how much money the agreement involves. [May 6 Vical press release]

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