FLU NEWS SCAN: Southern Hemisphere flu, vaccine safety and efficacy

Jun 1, 2011

Parts of Australia, Bolivia report increased flu activity
Health officials in Australia and Bolivia, two Southern Hemisphere countries just entering their winter flu season, are reporting an increase in flu detections, according to news and surveillance reports. Australia's health ministry said for the week ending May 13 that overall flu activity is low, though jurisdictions are reporting higher-than-normal numbers of lab-confirmed flu cases for this time of year, especially in the Northern Territory and Queensland. The Australian Medical Association's Queensland office said 1,600 flu infections have been reported so far this year, with 460 reported over the last 5 weeks, the Brisbane Times reported today. The group's president, Dr Gino Pecoraro, said the area is experiencing an unusually early start to the flu season, which he attributed to rainy weather that has kept people indoors where the virus can more easily spread.
Australian flu surveillance update
Jun 1 Brisbane Times story
Elsewhere, Bolivia's health ministry reported an increase in severe respiratory infections along with seven new 2009 H1N1 infections, Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported yesterday. The country's health minister, Nila Heredia, said respiratory infections have increased along with cold weather affecting La Paz, Oruro, Potosi, and Cochabamba provinces. She ordered Bolivia's health centers to take preventive measures to avoid an increase in 2009 H1N1 infections. The Southern Hemisphere's flu season typically runs from May through October.
Meta-analysis finds inactivated seasonal flu vaccines equal, safe
A large literature review of all four inactivated seasonal flu vaccine formulations in people who had been primed or vaccinated before suggested that all were safe, well tolerated, and equally effective. The Dutch research group, headed by virologist Dr Albert Osterhaus from Erasmus Medical Center, reported its findings in Vaccine. The researchers included 33 studies published between 1978 and 2009 that compared at least two of the vaccine formulations. The studies included 9,121 vaccinees who received the split-virus vaccine or the subunit plain-aqueous, virosomal, or MF59-adjuvanted version. The group's analysis confirmed previously reported similar immunogenicity of the two most frequently used inactivated seasonal flu vaccines, the split and aqueous formulations. "The four inactivated vaccine formulations induce more or less similar homologous humoral immunity in primed populations and offer a high chance of clinical protection," they wrote, adding that although the adjuvanted formulation may provide elevated immunogenicity, it's unclear if it provides any clinical benefit. They didn't note any safety concerns for any of the vaccines, but the adjuvanted vaccine was linked to increased levels of injection-site reactions.
May 30 Vaccine abstract

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