FLU NEWS SCAN: Secondhand smoke and flu, aerosolized flu viruses, Former CDC head dies

May 3, 2011

Study: Secondhand smoke in kids worsens hospital flu stay
Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to need intubation and intensive care when hospitalized with influenza, as well as have longer stays, according to findings from the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center (URMC) presented yesterday at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Denver. Researchers analyzed the medical charts of 91 children hospitalized at URMC between 2002 and 2009, more than one third of whom had been exposed to secondhand smoke. They found that 31% of exposed children needed intensive care, compared with 9% of unexposed children. Also, 19% of exposed patients required intubation, compared with 2% of unexposed children. After controlling for underlying conditions like asthma, the team found that exposed children were almost five times more likely to need intensive care and more than 11 times more likely to need intubation. In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke lengthened the stay of children without chronic conditions from 2 to 3 days, compared with a change from 4 days to more than 10 days in those who had chronic conditions. Lead author Karen Wilson, MD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics at URMC, said these results indicate that secondhand smoke increases the burden on hospitals and families and underscore the need for parents to quit smoking.
May 1 URMC press release

Aerosolized inoculation of ferrets more closely resembles natural infection
Using ferret models, researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that inoculating animals with aerosolized influenza viruses rather than using a liquid virus suspension more closely resembles a natural flu infection. The team compared virus deposition, infectivity, virulence, and transmissibility among ferrets inoculated intranasally with a liquid spray or by aerosols containing a seasonal human H3N2 or avian H5N1 influenza strain and found that aerosol inoculation more closely resembles a natural, airborne influenza virus infection. The researchers also found that viable virus was measurable in droplets and droplet nuclei exhaled by infected animals. "These methods will provide improved risk assessment of emerging influenza viruses that pose a threat to public health," the authors said.
May 2 Proc Natl Acad Sci abstract

Former CDC director David Sencer dies at age 86
Dr David Sencer, who directed the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the controversial swine flu vaccination campaign in 1976, died in Atlanta yesterday at age 86 after he was hospitalized with pneumonia, the Associated Press (AP) reported. He led the CDC from 1966 through 1977, the agency's longest-tenured director. He lost his job after problems occurred after he led a national immunization campaign against a swine flu virus that first emerged in soldiers in Ft Dix, N.J. The epidemic never happened, and federal officials received several reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome in people who were vaccinated  Sencer also led the CDC during its involvement in global smallpox eradication efforts and the Legionnaire's disease events in 1976. He served as an unpaid advisor to the CDC during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. In a January supplement of Clinical Infectious Diseases, Sencer compared the two swine-flu virus events. Though he pointed out several major lessons learned, he praised the CDC's management of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, noting that decision-making is always risky and risks can be minimized through effective communications. Though Sencer said more could have been done, such as involving schools earlier, the balance of the response was successful, "and so far, the ultimate test of management has been met: no one has been fired," he quipped.
Jan Clin Infect Dis abstract

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