NEWS SCAN: Infant flu-vaccine protection, employee flu shots, polio in Congo, rapid test contract

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Nov 9, 2010

Study: Flu vaccine in pregnant moms protects babies under 6 months
Administering influenza vaccine to pregnant women was more than 90% effective in preventing flu in their infants in the first 6 months of life, according to a new study. The finding is especially important, the authors say, because the flu vaccine has not been approved for infants younger than 6 months. In the matched case-control study, investigators identified 113 hospitalized babies under 1 year old who tested positive for influenza from 2000 to 2009. Each case was matched with 1 or 2 babies who tested negative for flu, for a total of 192 control subjects. Among infants younger than 6 months, the mothers of 2 (2.2%) of 91 case subjects and 31 (19.9%) of 156 controls had received a flu shot during pregnancy. The numbers for babies 6 to 12 months old were 1 (4.6%) of 22 case subjects and 2 (5.6%) of 36 controls. The authors conclude, "The effectiveness of influenza vaccine given to mothers during pregnancy in preventing hospitalization among their infants, adjusted for potential confounders, was 91.5% (95% confidence interval, 61.7%–98.1%; P = 0.001) for infants aged <6 months."
Nov 8 Clin Infect Dis abstract

Flu card program aims to streamline employee vaccination
Citi, a financial services company based in New York City and San Antonio, today launched the Citi Flu Care Card, a new product designed to help employers reduce the cost of offering seasonal flu vaccine to workers. Citi said in a press release that the program reduces costs by shifting the administration of flu shots from doctor's offices to a network of 17,000 pharmacies. It said the card program can reduce the cost for a vaccination by 63% while providing a convenient, no-cost option for employees. The program helps businesses rein in costs by enabling them to pay for the vaccinations only when they're administered, eliminating the need for prepayment. Dan Miller, senior vice president of Rite Aid, one of the pharmacy chains participating in the Flu Care Card program, said in the press release that the program is a good way to keep employees healthy, "It's also a good way to get out the message that the CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses."
Nov 9 Citi press release

Congo polio cases and deaths rise
In an update on a recent report on polio reimportation into the Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today it has now received 184 reports of acute flaccid paralysis and 85 deaths. The numbers reported today are an increase of 64 cases and 27 deaths from the WHO's initial report on Nov 4. The latest genetic sequencing tests suggest that the poliovirus in the outbreak is most closely related to a strain circulating in neighboring Angola. Congo's last indigenous case was recorded in 2000. Most of the cases are occurring in those over age 15. The country's government, along with international health partners, will launch the first round of vaccinations against the outbreak on Nov 12 using monovalent oral polio vaccine type 1, targeting the cities of Porte Noire and Kouilou along the neighboring Angolan province of Cabinda. A campaign targeting the rest of Congo will start on Nov 18, with planning under way for two additional rounds of nationwide vaccinations. The WHO has warned countries in central Africa to strengthen surveillance to help detect and respond quickly to any poliovirus importations.
Nov 9 WHO statement

Northrop Grumman gets contract to build rapid-test system prototypes
Northrop Grumman recently announced it was awarded a 1-year, $9.6 million federal contract to build two prototypes of a system to quickly detect more than 30 bacterial and viral pathogens in human samples. The system, called BioCHAMP-RSP (Confirmation of Harmful Agents by MassTag PCR – Rapid Screening Platform) will enable first responders to quickly test people who have been exposed to biological threats, the company said in a Nov 5 press release. The Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) awarded the contract under its Innovative Platform Technologies Program, the statement said. Dave Tilles, a company official, said the system will permit the identification of pathogens "within hours, not days, as is currently the case," according to the release. Northrop Grumman said its BioCHAMP-RSP team includes experts from several other companies and institutions.
Nov 5 Northrop Grumman news release

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