FLU NEWS SCAN: Ventilator contract, cell-based vaccine, flu-shot finder, shots for pregnant women, contaminated surfaces

Sep 30, 2010

HHS awards contract for next-generation ventilators
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the award of a $6.7 million contract to a California company to develop "low-cost, user-friendly and flexible next-generation ventilators." HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) awarded the 3-year contract to Newport Medical Instruments of Costa Mesa. The aim is to provide ventilators that can be used in large numbers of severely ill patients when mass casualties and shortages of experienced healthcare workers may be expected, such as in a major flu pandemic, the HHS statement said. The contract calls for a cost of less than $3,000 per ventilator, as compared with current costs ranging from $6,000 to $30,000 for portable ventilators with all the features BARDA is seeking. The contract also promotes domestic production of the devices.
Sep 29 HHS announcement

Austrian regulators clear Baxter's cell-based flu vaccine
Baxter International Inc. announced yesterday that Austria's drug regulatory agency has approved the company's Vero cell–based seasonal flu vaccine for use in adults and seniors. The new vaccine, called Preflucel, is now available in Austria and soon will be in the Czech Republic. Baxter said it will seek approval from more European countries in 2010 through a mutual recognition procedure, which is used when marketing approval has already been granted in a European Union member state. Preflucel, an inactivated split-virus vaccine, contains the three strains recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for use in the Northern Hemisphere, including the 2009 H1N1 virus. Baxter's new vaccine is one of very few cell-based flu vaccines that have reached the market. A cell-based seasonal flu vaccine called Optaflu was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2007, and in October 2009 Baxter received European Union approval for its cell-based 2009 H1N1 vaccine.
Sep 29 Baxter press release

HHS, Google launch flu vaccine locator
In a partnership with Google, HHS yesterday launched a seasonal flu vaccine finder on its Flu.gov Web site. The Google mapping feature asks users to enter a zip code, and it then identifies nearby locations that offer flu shots. When users click on a specific map location, they get more details such as hours, dates, and cost, when available, as well as contact information for the site offering the shots. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a Web announcement about the launch of the service, said it also appears at the top of results whenever computer users run Google searches using terms such as "flu" or "flu shot." A short list of flu prevention tips appears with the finder. Google said it is offering the search term feature as a public service that is separate from its Google Flu Trends feature. Flu vaccine locator widgets for use on other Web sites are also available on Flu.gov. HHS and Google also offered the finder last year.
Google flu vaccine finder

UK adds pregnant women to flu vaccination recommendation
Pregnant women in the United Kingdom will be offered the seasonal flu vaccine for the first time this season, the UK's Department of Health said today. The announcement came as the department launched its flu vaccination campaign. Dr. David Salisbury, the department's director of immunization, said the decision to include pregnant women was made because they were at increased risk for complications during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and the strain is expected to be a common source of infections over the fall and winter flu season.
Sep 30 UK Department of Health press release

Hand washing may reduce flu viruses on household surfaces
A study looking at household influenza transmission found surface contamination to be lower in households instructed on hand hygiene and higher in households where the index patient was 8 years old or younger. Researchers randomly assigned 90 households that had a child infected with flu to a hand-washing or control arm, and then swabbed six commonly touched household surfaces and the fingertips of the index patient and symptomatic family members. The found that 16 (18%) of the 90 households and 15 (17%) of fingertips of the index patients tested positive for influenza A. Control households had a higher prevalence of surface contamination, 24%, than did hand-washing households, with 11%. Likewise, households in which the age of the index patient was 8 years or younger had a significantly higher prevalence of surface contamination. The study also suggested that lower absolute humidity may lead to a higher rate of surface contamination.
Sep 27 Clin Infect Dis abstract

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