NEWS SCAN: Statins for H1N1, UN Immunization Week, rapid flu test, flu vaccination in Brazil, plague follow-up

Apr 26, 2011

Study: Statins not protective against severe H1N1
UK patients who had taken statin drugs before hospitalization for pandemic 2009 H1N1 influenza were no better protected from severe outcomes than were patients who were not taking the drugs, according to a new study. Researchers studied 571 hospitalized patients at least 35 years old who had confirmed 2009 H1N1, 94 of whom (16.5%) were on statins at the time of admission. On age- and sex-adjusted multivariable logistic regression, they found no statistically significant association between statin use and severe outcome (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.81; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.46-1.38). The same was true after adjusting for age, sex, obesity, and indication for statins, but they reported that the result was "compatible with a small but clinically significant protective effect" (adjusted OR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.38-1.33). The authors conclude, "Although the database from which these observations are derived represents the largest available suitable UK hospital cohort, a larger study would be needed to confirm whether there is any benefit in this setting."
Apr 25 PLoS One study

UN says 180 countries participating in Immunization Week
In what the United Nations (UN) calls a first, about 180 countries and territories are carrying out simultaneous UN-backed immunization campaigns this week, targeting diseases such as influenza, measles, polio, and tetanus, the UN announced yesterday. The activities began Apr 23 and involve countries in all five World Health Organization (WHO) regions. The WHO said outreach teams are visiting groups with limited access to regular health services, such as people in remote areas and on urban fringes and the internally displaced, to administer vaccines. Other diseases targeted in the campaign include diphtheria, hepatitis B, mumps, rubella, pertussis, and yellow fever. The effort also includes training sessions for healthcare workers and roundtable discussions with political leaders, medical professionals, parents, and caregivers, the UN said. Despite all disease-prevention efforts to date, said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan, "We are at risk of losing many of the gains that have been made and forgoing the additional benefits that are within reach." Recent outbreaks of measles, pertussis, and polio have pointed up the work that needs to be done, she added.
Apr 25 UN press release
WHO statement

Company says FDA has approved its rapid flu test
A diagnostic test that can identify and distinguish influenza A, influenza B, and the 2009 H1N1 flu virus in about an hour has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, according to the test's maker, Cepheid, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. The test, called Xpert Flu, runs on Cepheid's GenXpert System, the firm said in a press release today. CEO John Bishop said, "While molecular testing is widely recognized as the new gold standard for detection of influenza, it has generally been limited to highly complex laboratories. Xpert Flu empowers institutions with moderate complexity laboratories to have a molecular influenza test available to their physicians 24 hours a day."
Brazil launches broad flu vaccine campaign
Brazil this week began a campaign to vaccinate 24 million people against three strains of seasonal influenza, including 2009 H1N1, according to a story in Brazzil Magazine. The campaign precedes the Southern Hemisphere's winter flu season and is especially targeting seniors, indigenous people, very young children, pregnant women, and health workers. The country's health ministry plans to distribute 30 million doses, a little less than half of which will be in the southeastern states of Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Espirito Santo. The campaign will run through May 13.
Apr 25 Brazzil Magazine article

Plague outbreaks in Congo underscored importance of rapid tests
Two outbreaks of pneumonic plague in 2004-05 and 2006 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) underscored the importance of a well-equipped and -prepared staff and labs, which can be difficult in rural regions, according to a report published yesterday in Emerging Infectious Diseases. The outbreaks occurred in two remote regions of the DRC's Oriental province, the first from Dec 15, 2004, through Mar 11, 2005. It resulted in 130 plague cases, all pneumonic except for 2 septicemic, and 57 deaths (44% case-fatality rate [CFR]). The second outbreak, from Aug 21 through Oct 12, 2006, led to 162 pneumonic plague cases, including 45 deaths (28% CFR). In the first outbreak, because of limitations in lab capabilities, the cause was confirmed only through retrospective serologic studies. In contrast, use of rapid diagnostic tests in the second outbreak aided earlier disease detection. The authors conclude, "Strengthening the national plague reference laboratory would likely limit the need for international transportation of potentially dangerous specimens to only the first confirmations. This effort should be extended to all the plague-endemic countries in Africa."
May Emerg Infect Dis study

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