NEWS SCAN: Low US flu activity, flu vaccine and GBS, measles in Quebec

Oct 28, 2011

CDC: US flu activity stays low
Flu activity in the United States remained at low levels last week, with all indicators below their baselines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today. The proportion of deaths from pneumonia and flu dipped to 6.2% but was still within levels expected for this point in the flu season, according to the CDC. Doctor's visits for flulike illnesses were below regional baselines in all 10 CDC regions. The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza rose slightly last week, from 0.4% to 0.8%. Sporadic flu activity was reported by 18 states, the same level as last week, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
Oct 28 CDC influenza update

UK data show no risk of GBS from flu vaccine in kids
Pandemic 2009 H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines did not raise the risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) among UK children, but influenza itself did, according to data presented in a letter published in The Lancet today. UK researchers, including scientists from the Health Protection Agency, analyzed data collected through the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit (BPSU) system. From September 2009 through August 2010, 55 children developed GBS and 2 developed the related Fisher's syndrome. Three of them had received the H1N1 or seasonal flu vaccine (an estimated 855,378 UK children were vaccinated). Of these three, only one case involved an interval potentially indicating a causal connection between vaccination and GBS. In comparison, 9 of the 57 with GBS or Fisher's syndrome had contracted influenza, 7 of which were pandemic H1N1 cases. Six of the total flu cases and five of the H1N1 cases were laboratory confirmed. The authors say their findings mirror a 2008 American Journal of Epidemiology study that also found no link between GBS and flu vaccine but a 16-fold increased risk in those who contracted flu. An August study in Vaccine also found no rise in GBS among H1N1 vaccinees. The authors say their findings may demonstrate a protective effect of influenza vaccination against GBS.
Oct 29 Lancet letter
2008 Am J Epidemiol study
Aug 27 Vaccine abstract

Quebec measles cases top 750
Measles cases in Quebec have now topped 750 this year, most of them in the Mauricie region and in central Quebec, according to a CBC News story yesterday. "It's the biggest outbreak in North America and South America since 2002," said Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health protection. The province typically sees one or two measles cases a year, according to the story. "Other countries are looking at us, what we are doing because we don't want to re-introduce measles into North and South America," Arruda added. On Oct 7 the World Health Organization (WHO) said Quebec had 742 reported measles cases, including 89 hospitalizations. Measles is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in children globally, according to the CBC story.
Oct 27 CBC story
Oct 7 WHO report

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