SWINE FLU BREAKING NEWS: Case counts, vaccine production capacity, virus confirmed in pigs, Swiss quarantine, UK flu chief

May 6, 2009

The global count of confirmed H1N1 swine influenza cases rose to 1,658 in 23 countries, with 30 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported at a briefing today. Mexico continued to lead the list with 946 cases. [May 6 WHO swine flu update]

The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States rose to 642 cases in 41 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this morning. The death toll grew to two yesterday with the report of a 33-year-old Texas woman who had underlying medical conditions and died last week from flu. Media reports said she was 8 months pregnant and delivered the baby before she died. States reporting the most cases include Illinois (122), New York (97), California (67), and Texas (61). [CDC swine flu page]

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny of the WHO, speaking at a news briefing today, estimated that the global capacity to produce a vaccine against the novel H1N1 virus is between 1 billion and 2 billion doses annually, based on an estimated seasonal flu vaccine production capacity of about 900 million doses. But she acknowledged many unknowns about the vaccine issue, including how well the vaccine virus will grow in eggs, what size dose will be required, whether an adjuvant will be needed, and whether each person will need one or two doses. She said experts will meet May 14 to consider whether the WHO should advise manufacturers to launch mass production of an H1N1 vaccine.

Follow-up testing confirmed the presence of the novel H1N1 swine flu virus in pigs at an Alberta, Canada, farm, according to a report yesterday from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The confirmatory tests included gene sequencing and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), though the report said full characterization is continuing. Public health officials suspect that a carpenter at the farm who had been ill after traveling to Mexico transmitted the virus to the pigs. [May 5 OIE report]

The chief medical officer of a Swiss army base recently quarantined 250 soldiers after some experienced symptoms suggestive of a swine flu infection, according to Swisster, an English-langue news service.

The British government yesterday appointed a health official to direct its influenza epidemic response. Ian Dalton, currently chief executive of the National Health Service (NHS) North East division, was named director for NHS Flu Resilience, the London-based Telegraph newspaper reported today. Dalton's responsibilities include managing vaccination programs and the supply of equipment and drugs. [May 6 Telegraph story]

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