Apr 19, 2013
More child deaths reported as US flu season nears end
The latest report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests the influenza season is over or nearly over, but 10 more pediatric flu deaths were reported, raising the season's total to 126. Only 1.2% of medical visits last week were for flu-like illness, less than last week and well below the baseline of 2.2%, the CDC reported. Also, only one state (Vermont) reported moderate flu activity, while one (Hawaii) cited low activity and the rest reported minimal levels. The share of deaths attributed to pneumonia and flu was 7.2%, slightly below the epidemic threshold of 7.4% and the same as last week. All but 2 of the 10 pediatric deaths occurred in March or earlier. One of the cases involved an H3N2 virus, one involved a 2009 H1N1 strain, seven were linked to influenza B, and one was a type A virus that was not subtyped.
Apr 19 CDC FluView report
Meanwhile, the flu season in Europe is nearing its end after more than 3 months of active transmission, which is longer than usual, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in its own weekly update today. Of 29 countries reporting, 23 cited low-intensity transmission, none had high activity, and all said activity was stable or subsiding.
Apr 19 ECDC update
Animal study shows RSV can cross the placenta
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most common respiratory infection in babies and young children, and experts strongly suspect that early infections can put children at risk for later chronic lung problems, including asthma. However, new findings from researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and West Virginia University raise the possibility that RSV can pass from mothers to fetuses during pregnancy. The group published its findings yesterday in PLoS One. The researchers inoculated pregnant rats with RSV at midterm, and then looked for evidence of RSV in fetuses, newborns, and adults. Testing revealed RSV genome in 30% of fetuses, 40% of newborns' lungs, and 25% of adults' lungs. The team also found links between in-utero RSV exposure and dysregulation of neurotrophic pathways that predisposed the animals after birth to airway hyperreactivity when they were reinfected with the virus. The researchers concluded that the findings challenge the current thinking that RSV infections occur only after birth and suggest that prenatal infections might have long-lasting consequences.
Apr 18 PLoS One study
Apr 18 EurekAlert press release
Inovio reports promising results for its universal H1N1 vaccine
A universal H1N1 flu vaccine made by Inovio Pharmaceuticals generated protective antibody levels comparable to the trivalent vaccines now in use for seasonal influenza, the Pennsylvania company announced at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington, DC, yesterday. Called SynCon, the vaccine is not matched to the currently circulating H1N1 flu strain, as is the current licensed flu vaccine, the company said in a press release. One hundred healthy volunteers aged 18 to 55 years received various dosage regimens of the vaccine via a skin-targeted electroporation device in phase 1 testing. Six of 10 subjects (60%) who received the highest dose (1.8 mg) of SynCon at least twice achieved an antibody titer considered protective (at least 1:40) with a fourfold or greater increase over prevaccination levels against the H1N1 A/California/07/09 flu strain currently circulating. This is comparable to the seroconversion rate seen in volunteers who received the current approved seasonal flu vaccine, the company said. From 30% to 70% of subjects receiving lower doses (0.3 to 1.8 mg) of SynCon also reached antibody titers of 1:40 against nine H1N1 flu strains tested, demonstrating the vaccine's broad coverage against unmatched strains, says the release. The company said earlier data from the phase 1 trial showed protective titers against some of the most prevalent H1N1 strains from the past 100 years.
Apr 18 Inovio press release
Pakistan's latest polio vaccination drive falls short
A 3-day polio vaccination drive in Pakistan that commenced Apr 15 missed more than 1.3 million targeted children because of security concerns and other problems, says a story in Pakistan Today. The vaccination drive's goal was immunization of 33.5 million children under the age of 5. The Punjab district had the largest number of unvaccinated children, with 809,225; Sindh missed 278,210 children, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 173,111, Balochistan 37,016, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas 31,048, Islamabad 10,513, and Gilgit-Baltistan 833. Even with the missed vaccinations, Dr Altaf Boson, national coordinator for monitoring Pakistan’s polio vaccination program, called the campaign a success, saying the figures are not considered final. Among the factors that hindered meeting the goal for the campaign were strikes by vaccination workers, havoc caused by the Apr 13 earthquake, security concerns and/or unrest, underprepared workers, and confusion over campaign dates or other planning factors in various areas.
Apr 19 Pakistan Today story