NEWS SCAN: Severity pattern, surplus vaccine, immunosuppressed patients, football flu, new flu embassador

December 18, 2009

WHO finds no change in pandemic severity pattern
An early look at winter pandemic flu fatalities in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres suggests severity has not changed, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today. The virus is peaking or declining in many parts of Europe, except for the north, southeast, and parts of the Russian Federation. Activity is also rising in western and central Asia, as well as northern parts of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Pandemic and seasonal strains are cocirculating in West Africa.
Dec 18 WHO update

Some countries eye returning surplus pandemic vaccine
Swiss officials said today they plan to donate or sell 4.5 million surplus doses of pandemic vaccine, because uptake among the public has been low, Reuters reported. Germany and Spain have also said they want to return excess vaccine to manufacturers. Meanwhile, the Greek media reported today that government officials hope to cancel an order for 8 million vaccine doses. Immunization began in Greece a month ago, but the health ministry said citizens are skeptical and uptake has been low.
Dec 18 Reuters story

CDC spells out precautions for immunosuppressed patients
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Dec 16 outlined special considerations for severely immunosuppressed patients in its updated H1N1 guidance. It said cancer chemotherapy patients, for example, are at increased risk of complications, and those with acute respiratory symptoms should receive empiric treatment, even when no fever is present. Infection control measures should be taken before test results are known to avoid spread of any resistant strains that may develop.
Dec 16 CDC updated pandemic guidance for severely immunosuppressed patients

Flu triggers cancellation of St. Louis Rams practice
The St. Louis Rams of the National Football League canceled their practice yesterday because several players were sick with suspected H1N1 flu, the Associated Press reported. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said five or six players had flu-like illness and that others had reported symptoms the last few weeks. He called the cancellation "more of a precaution than anything" and said he expected the team would return to practice today.

Clinton appoints pandemic flu ambassador
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced yesterday the appointment of Dr. Keri-Ann Jones as the US special representative on avian and pandemic influenza. She will lead US involvement in the pandemic flu arena and guide the department's response and preparedness. She was formerly the State Department's assistant secretary for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs where she worked in international research and emerging infectious disease issues.

Dec 17 US State Department press release

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