H1N1 FLU BREAKING NEWS: H1N1 mutation, European death toll, vaccine updates, first hajj deaths

ECDC: Norway mutation may affect receptor binding
The mutation recently found in H1N1 isolates from three patients in Norway may influence receptor binding specificity and therefore the virus's ability to infect tissues deep in the respiratory tract, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in its daily update today. But the binding preferences and the effects of the mutation on the virus's biological properties have not yet been determined. The mutated virus remains sensitive to the two leading antiviral drugs.
Nov 23 ECDC update

Pandemic death toll rising in Europe
The weekly number of deaths due to the pandemic virus in Europe has nearly doubled every 2 weeks over the past 6 weeks and reached 169 last week, with a cumulative total of 670, the ECDC reported in its pandemic update today. Most of the deaths have occurred in Western Europe, but fatalities are increasing in central and Eastern Europe. "Very high intensity" flu activity was reported in Italy, Norway, and Sweden, with high intensity in nine other countries, the agency said.
Nov 23 ECDC update

Three more countries start H1N1 vaccination
The Czech Republic began its pandemic H1N1 vaccine campaign today, with the first doses slated for the military, top state officials, and people with underlying conditions, Reuters reported. Cyprus also started the first phase of its campaign targeting healthcare workers, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions, the Associated Press (AP) reported. And Dutch children between 6 months and 4 years old received their first doses, according to the Canadian Press.
Nov 23 AP story

Authors say high-risk adults need better access to vaccine
Two Harvard researchers write that adults with medical conditions other than pregnancy deserve better access to H1N1 vaccine. High-risk adults were left off the list of top-priority groups to be targeted in a vaccine shortage, but some have a higher risk of death than pregnant women and a far higher risk than healthy children under age 4, the authors write in PLoS Currents. Even as vaccine supplies improve, high-risk adults will face competition from healthy people younger than 24.
Nov 20 PLoS Currents article

State workers among Hawaii's priority group
Hawaii has included about 7,000 of 50,000 state workers among the priority group to receive the pandemic H1N1 vaccine, the AP reported. A spokesman for the state's civil defense department said the strategy is to ensure that state government doesn't shut down because of high absence rates. Key employees from all three branches of government were vaccinated, including those from tax, health, and transportation departments.
Nov 21 AP story

First flu deaths reported in hajj pilgrims
Saudi Arabia's health ministry announced the first four pandemic H1N1 flu deaths in hajj pilgrims, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. Three of the patients were age 75, hailing from Morocco, Sudan, and India. The fourth was a 17-year-old girl from Nigeria. The health ministry said all four had underlying conditions, including cancer and respiratory illness. Sixteen other flu infections were detected in hajj pilgrims, four of whom are hospitalized in critical condition.

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