H1N1 FLU BREAKING NEWS: Death rate, hajj risk, hand washing, tools for schools, effect on poor nations, vaccine approvals

Sep 16, 2009

H1N1 said to kill at same rate as seasonal flu
The H1N1 flu death rate is lower than previously estimated and comparable to what is seen in a moderate flu season, a Harvard University expert said at a meeting in Washington, DC. Dr. Mark Lipsitch estimated the case-fatality rate is between .007% and .045%, Reuters reported. That would qualify as a category 1 pandemic (the lowest level) on the US government's pandemic severity index. Lipsitch based his estimate on global reports of flu-like illness, hospitalizations, and deaths.
http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE58E6NZ20090916
Sep 16 Reuters report

Saudi Arabia dismisses hajj flu risk
Health officials in Saudi Arabia yesterday downplayed the risk of pandemic H1N1 flu transmission at the upcoming hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. They said they are reassured because no flu deaths have been linked to the smaller Umrah pilgrimage, which began Aug 22 with the month-long Islam Ramadan observance. Other countries, such as Egypt, have considered barring pilgrim travel, and others have advised that high-risk groups not make the trip.
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/world/09/16/09/saudis-dismiss-hajj-swine-flu-fears-other-states-worry
Sep 16 AFP story

Experts say hand washing science shaky for flu
Some infectious disease experts are questioning the science behind hand washing as a measure to curb the spread of the pandemic H1N1 virus, Newsweek reported. Though hand washing can prevent the spread of cold and other respiratory viruses, there is no evidence that it helps stop influenza, said Arthur Reingold, an epidemiologist at the University of California Berkeley. He says that flu transmits through airborne routes and that hand washing could provide a false sense of security.
http://www.newsweek.com/id/215435
Sep 15 Newsweek story

Microsoft offers Web tools for teachers, sick students
Microsoft today launched a Web portal with free tools to help teachers and students manage class assignments during novel H1N1 outbreaks. The Microsoft Office Live Workspace H1N1 flu site enables teachers to post assignments, share handouts, and conduct group projects. The tools are accessible with any Internet connection and don't require Microsoft Office on the students' computers. A Microsoft official said the tools could help schools handle flu-related disruptions.
http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2009/sep09/09-16H1N1PR.mspx
Sep 16 Microsoft press release

WHO director: Pandemic may devastate poor nations
In a speech yesterday in Copenhagen, World Health Organization director-general Margaret Chan said the H1N1 pandemic is causing "manageable disruptions" in affluent countries but will likely have a "devastating impact" on developing countries that have few health resources. She predicted the pandemic will be a "watershed event" that will test the world on fairness issues. On the same day the European Commission urged members to share vaccine with developing nations.
http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2009/euro_regional_committee_20090815/en/index.html
Sep 15 Margaret Chan speech

China licenses third novel flu vaccine
China has licensed its third pandemic H1N1 vaccine, made by the government-affiliated Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences, the United Kingdom Press Association reported today. The state-run paper Shanghai Daily reported that the institute has plans to produce 3 million doses by Oct 1 and up to 10 million by the end of the year. Sinovac and Hualan Biological Engineering produce the other two approved vaccines. China hopes to vaccinate 5% of its population by the end of 2009.

Glaxo awaits US approval for H1N1 vaccine
A spokeswoman from GlaxoSmithKline, the only one of five producers that didn't received Food and Drug Administration approval for its pandemic H1N1vaccine yesterday, said the company earlier this month submitted a request for approval for its nonadjuvanted vaccine, Bloomberg News reported. She said the company initially concentrated on developing a vaccine with an adjuvant, but US health officials have favored a nonadjuvanted vaccine approach to speed and simplify the approval process.
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aL1RsswD_C44
Sep 15 Bloomberg News story

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