H1N1 FLU BREAKING NEWS: Vaccine approval in Europe, surge of cases in Mexico, vitamin D link explored, request to ease flu drug patent rules

Jul 27, 2009

Europe plans to streamline H1N1 flu vaccine approval

Europe's drug regulators are fast-tracking the approval process for novel H1N1 vaccines, which could mean they would be used before much human testing is done, the Associated Press reported yesterday. Though flu vaccines in the EU usually get thorough testing, authorities plan to evaluate H1N1 vaccines largely based on previous data for H5N1 avian flu vaccines, since both types have the same basic ingredients, the AP said. Regular safety monitoring will be required as the vaccines are used.

H1N1 flu cases surge in Mexico's Chiapas state

The number of novel H1H1 cases in the Mexican state of Chiapas is soaring, with up to 130 new infections reported each day, Agence France-Presse reported today. However, Mexican health officials say the virus is under control in the rest of the country. Located in the country's southeast, Chiapas has a poor indigenous population, tourist sites, and heavy traffic from Central American immigrants. The state has the country's highest case count and has reported 8 of the last 10 deaths.

[Jul 27 AFP story]

Canada to test idea that vitamin D boosts flu protection

To see if high vitamin D levels protect against novel H1N1 flu, the Public Health Agency of Canada is launching a trial to compare blood levels of the vitamin in those with mild and severe cases, the Toronto-based Globe and Mail reported today. Scientists speculate that the winter spike in flu infections is related to lower vitamin D levels associated with reduced exposure to sunlight. Higher vitamin D levels in mildly infected people might suggest a low-cost flu prevention measure.

South American nations ask WTO to ease flu drug patent rules

A trade bloc of seven South American nations on Jul 24 demanded exemptions from paying patent fees for vaccines and drugs against the pandemic H1N1 virus, Agence France-Presse reported. They urged the application of a World Trade Organization intellectual property provision to relax patent rules to protect public health. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said that though suspending patents could save millions of lives, she wasn't suggesting that the vaccines should be produced for free.

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