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Friday, 9 October 2009

US officials combat public's rejection of swine flu vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dispatched swine flu "mythbusters" across the United States to correct what it says are rumors and misconceptions about the H1N1 virus and the new swine flu vaccine reaching American clinics this week.

Their task won't be easy. Despite a US vaccination regimen that public health officials widely regard as a success, a distrust of government scientists in general and of vaccinations in particular pervades large swaths of America, according to recent polls.

The vaccine is opposed, moreover, by naturopaths and even a well-known epidemiologist, Tom Jefferson, who has deemed H1N1 "not a major threat."

"[T]here are a lot of rumors out there and we're trying to address them, that we're expecting a very good safety track record for H1N1 vaccine," said Anne Schuchat, director of the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at a news conference Friday.

While the share of people concerned about swine flu has jumped from 38 percent in June to 52 percent now, 41 percent of respondents still say they definitely will not get the flu shot, according to a recent Harvard Opinion Research poll. A Consumer Reports poll found that two-thirds of US parents have reservations about giving the vaccine to their children.

In response, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has mounted a public relations offensive to try to ease fears about the vaccine. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the rounds of morning TV shows and also appeared Friday at Dodge Park Elementary School in Landover, Md., to help administer the vaccine to school kids.

One message in the $3 billion campaign to get nearly half of all Americans inoculated: "A decision not to get vaccinated isn't a decision that is risk-free, but a decision to take on a different set of risks," Glen Nowak, a CDC spokesman, told the Monitor.

CDC director Thomas Frieden at a press conference this week addressed what he considered the top three misconceptions:

•Swine flu isn't a mild illness as many people believe, he said, "but can knock you out for a day or two or three" and can, for some, be fatal.

•Fears that the vaccine is unsafe, experimental, and that corners were cut in its production are untrue, Mr. Frieden asserts. "My children will get it, and other public health and societal leaders will get it and have their families get it."

•Many Americans believe the vaccine is arriving too late to be effective. But Frieden says, "We don't know what the long flu season is going to hold."

This week, the Monitor reported that a heated debate has emerged about individuals' rights and responsibilities in deciding whether to receive the vaccine.

The debate is reflected in Facebook pages and chat rooms that are lighting up with the question, "Should I get it?"

Reports of neurological side effects among some vaccine recipients during the 1976 swine flu outbreak hardened some Americans against flu vaccines, even though health officials say those risks are minimal today.

These days, skeptics have much bigger stages, namely cable TV and the Internet, on which to air their doubts. Fox News' Glenn Beck has devoted hours this week to asking whether people should get the vaccine, and why the World Health Organization, "Big Pharma," and the government are hyping a pandemic that seems less virulent than officials had predicted.

Jennifer Edmondson of Appleton, Wis., the mother of a 13-year-old, reflects a more common concern. "The flu caused by H1N1, in general, has been found to be no more dangerous than other types of flu," she writes in an e-mail. "My reluctance is not based on any distrust of our federal government, [but] rather, on my analysis of the necessity of the shot."


Swine flu vaccine: Is it ethical to say no?


Swine Flu Event Shows Mass Vaccine Rejection

A U.S. government media event to promote H1N1 school vaccinations on Friday included VIPs, cute kids and a phalanx of television cameras -- but only one in five children at the school had proper parental consent to get immunized.

"This school was ready to go," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared after touring a makeshift vaccination clinic in the cafeteria at Dodge Park Elementary School, near Washington.

But 80 percent of the student body were ineligible for vaccinations due to missing paperwork during the day-long swine flu clinic.

Federal officials did not want to discuss the turnout. It underscored the challenge facing the U.S. government's $6.4 billion immunization effort which involves the widespread use of schools as vaccine clinics for the first time in a generation.

H1N1 poses a greater danger of severe illness and death for children and young people than seasonal flu, which is particularly dangerous for the elderly.

Only about 20 percent of U.S. children get vaccinated against seasonal flu in a typical year. Some parents, including many at Dodge Park Elementary, are holding back on H1N1 vaccination because of worries about the newness of the vaccine -- concerns that health officials say are unfounded.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that 76 U.S. children have died from H1N1 since April, with widespread swine flu in 37 states.

Most victims had underlying disease but 20 to 30 percent were healthy before they contracted swine flu.

This death toll compares with 46 to 88 pediatric deaths for entire flu seasons over the past three years, the CDC said.


Dodge Park is among the first schools in the United States to serve as a clinic for student vaccinations as the government rolls out up to 250 million doses of vaccine by year end.

There will be some 90,000 vaccination sites nationwide including doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals and stores.

Federal officials have cautioned that the early weeks of the immunization program could be bumpy as state and local health departments cope with the strain.

One problem at Dodge Park was bureaucratic. Dozens of children could not get immunized because their parents submitted incomplete consent forms, officials said.

Another was that the only vaccine on offer was AstraZeneca (AZN.L) unit MedImmune's nasal spray, which is unsuitable for children with underlying conditions such as asthma. Injectable vaccine is due to become available next week.

But school officials said the main barrier was the safety concern.

"Many parents are not comfortable with it. They'd like to see more testing," school nurse Irene Campbell explained after helping to immunize 107 students out of a student body of 510.

Popular safety concerns are frustrating for public health officials, who say clinical trials show the new vaccine to be as safe and effective as seasonal flu vaccinations.

"It's very safe. Although the virus is new, the vaccine is not new. It's made exactly the way seasonal flu is made year in and year out," Sebelius said.


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Backstreet Boys cancel tour Brian Littrell diagnosed with Swine Flu

The Backstreet Boys have cancelled several promotional appearances in New York after member Brian Littrell has been diagnosed with swine flu, the band said in a statement Monday.

The singer and his bandmates, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough and AJ McLean, and touring crew were prescribed Tamiflu as a preventative measure while Littrell, 34, recovers.

The group was scheduled to appear at New York's Hard Rock Café on Monday for the NYC PINKTOBER event. The Backstreet Boys, who are due to release their seventh album, This Is Us, on Tuesday, were also scheduled to perform their new single "Straight Through My Heart" on CBS's The Early Show that same day.

"We were really looking forward to spending time with our closest fans and friends in NYC and take part of PINKTOBER, an unbelievable and important program" Littrell says in a statement. "I hope we can come back soon and do everything we can to help."

No other details about the Backstreet Boys' promotional schedule were available.

Elite Fashion Photographer Irving Penn, Dead

Irving Penn, a grand master of American fashion photography whose "less is more" aesthetic, combined with a startling sensuality, defined a visual style that he applied to designer dresses and fleshy nudes, famous artists and tribal chiefs, cigarette butts and cosmetics jars, has died. He was 92.

Many of Penn's now-famous photographs are owned by leading art museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, which in 1996 obtained the photographer's archive of 134 master and vintage prints plus proof sheets, correspondence and other documents. Most recently, a selection of his photographs was on view in "The Case for Wine: From King Tut to Today," an exhibit at the Art Institute that closed Sept. 20. Penn died Wednesday at his apartment in New York City, said his brother, film director Arthur Penn. The cause was not given.

Penn started contributing to Vogue in 1943 and became one of the first commercial photographers to cross the chasm that separated commercial and art photography until the 1970s. He did so, in part, by using the same technique no matter what he photographed -- isolating his subject, allowing for scarcely a prop and building a work of graphic perfection through his printing process.

Critics considered the results to be icons, not just images, each one greater than the person or the object in the frame.

"In Penn's photographs, generations of brilliant artists and lovely young women are endowed with dignity for their enduring moment," wrote fashion critic Kennedy Fraser in a 2007 Vogue magazine tribute to Penn when he was 90.

He was a purist who mistrusted perfect beauty, which brought an engaging tension to his fashion photographs as well as his still lifes and portraits. One of his best-known shots for Vogue magazine in the 1950s shows an impeccably dressed model glancing sideways through a veil that covers her face, as if she isn't ready for her close-up.

In another famous shot, this one from the 1990s, bright red lips drip with gooey chocolate. Suddenly, the dessert world's favorite food looks very unappealing.

Penn's most familiar photographs are the cosmetics ads he shot for Clinique that have appeared in magazines since 1968. Each image is a balancing act of face cream jars, astringent bottles and bars of soap that threatens to collapse.

Despite an obvious appreciation for the art and craft of a beautifully made dress, Penn strained against the unreachable world it represents. To escape it, or contest it perhaps, in the late 1960s he started photographing crushed cigarette butts and street debris.

Some reviewers found Penn's cigarette butts pretentious when they were displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in 1975. Many questioned whether anything by a fashion photographer belonged in an art museum. A similar debate stewed during an exhibit of Penn's photos of urban debris at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1977.

Far-sighted reviewers, however, praised Penn's ability to turn discarded objects into art. "Each distinct, dirty, torn and ragged reject has been carefully selected, isolated, enlarged and transmuted from a cultural throwaway into a haunting iconic artifact," an Art News review concluded in 1977.

Penn stayed above the fray and photographed what he wanted. Hells Angels in leather and chrome and famouswriters received the same painstaking treatment.

"He didn't worry about questions of art versus commerce," said Colin Westerbeck, former photography curator at the Art Institute of Chicago. "Photography is a mass medium available to anyone. A few geniuses, like Irving Penn, redeem it," Westerbeck said in a 2003 interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Besides his brother, Penn is survived by a son, Tom, and a stepdaughter, Mia Fonssagrives-Solow. Tribune staff contributed to this report.


Earhquake in pacific triggers tusnami ( updated news ) and evacuation

Earthquake in Pacific Triggers Tsunami, Evacuations (Update2)
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By Ed Johnson and Aaron Sheldrick

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) -- A magnitude-7.8 earthquake triggered a tsunami warning for nations across the South Pacific, forcing people to flee to higher ground, nine days after destructive waves killed about 140 people in Samoa.

Authorities evacuated locals and tourists on islands including Fiji and New Caledonia, before the alert was canceled. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The warning was triggered by a quake that struck off Vanuatu at 9:03 a.m. local time today, followed by a temblor measuring 7.7 about 15 minutes later, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Aftershocks measuring 7.3 and 6.6 were also recorded. Tsunami waves as high as 10 centimeters were seen in Vanuatu, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which canceled the regional alert about 2 1/2 hours after the initial earthquake.

“Everyone was running up the mountains,” Agence France- Presse cited local journalist Tipi Autagavaia as saying from the Samoan island of Upolu. “You could see the panic and fear was still fresh from what happened” when a tsunami, triggered by a magnitude-8 quake, hit late last month.

That disaster killed at least 184 people, including 143 in Samoa, 32 in neighboring American Samoa and nine in Tonga, AFP reported.

Residents Run

In American Samoa, Betty Ahsoon, a spokeswoman for Homeland Security, said today’s alert sparked panic, the news agency said. “I think they’re well aware now whenever the word ‘tsunami’ comes, they are going to have to run and that’s what they did,” AFP cited her as saying.

In New Caledonia, the port of Koniambo was evacuated and workers in vessels were advised to take precautions, Peter Fuchs, a spokesman for Xstrata Plc, said by e-mail.

The site began returning to normal operations after the tsunami warning was lifted,, he said. Xstrata, the world’s fourth-largest copper supplier, is developing the $3.8 billion Koniambo nickel mine in New Caledonia and is due to start producing ore in 2012.

“It was pretty calm, nobody was too distressed,” said Australian tourist Steve Handley, 22, who was staying at the Mango Bay resort on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, where hotel workers told guests to seek refuge on a nearby hill, about 100 meters above sea level.

Schools were closed in coastal areas, Misaeli Funaki, duty forecaster at the Fiji Meteorological Service, said by phone.

Tsunami Alert

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning or watch for more than 30 nations, including Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Indonesia and the Philippines.

New Zealand authorities canceled the tsunami alert and advised people to be wary of strong currents along the country’s coast line.

A tsunami watch for Australia’s Queensland state was canceled after no threatening waves were observed, the country’s Bureau of Meteorology said.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said it expected “slight sea level changes” in waters off Japan because of the quake.

Residents in Vanuatu, a group of 83 islands to the west of Samoa, raced to higher ground after the alert, AFP said. The magnitude-7.8 quake struck 295 kilometers north-northwest of Vanuatu’s Espiritu Santo island at a depth of 35 kilometers, according to the USGS.

Vanuatu, a popular tourist destination, is in a zone where the Pacific and Indo-Australian plates meet and constantly shift.

Authorities in New Caledonia evacuated schools and ordered people away from the coast, AFP said.


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Microsoft helps you diagnose H1N1 Swine Flu On-Line

A new service from Microsoft is designed to help people perform swine flu self-assessments in order to determine whether they have contacted the H1N1 virus. Based on material licensed from Emory University, the Redmond company has introduced the H1N1 Flu Response Center, a website set up to allow users to diagnose the illness in the absence of a doctor. Via the H1N1 self-assessment service, people who think they might have swine flu can not only gauge symptoms but also receive guidance on the steps that they need to take next. Microsoft notes that the H1N1 Flu Response Center is designed to complement the current healthcare resources that are stretched because of the flu pandemic.

“If current estimates are correct, many emergency departments across the nation could be overwhelmed by two groups of patients — those who have H1N1 and those who believe they have H1N1,” noted Angela Gardner, M.D., FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “It is going to be essential that we use every tool and service at our disposal to contain this illness, and online H1N1 self-assessment tools, such as the one offered by Microsoft, can be helpful in providing people with ways to determine whether they should seek emergency care.”

Microsoft is underlining that the self-assessment is set up exclusively for US residents, and in fact, one of the pieces of information that users need to supply is their zip code. The H1N1 Flu Response Center will need to know not just a general location, but also your age, the amount of days that you think you might have had the flu, whether your temperature went over 100.4º F (38º C) in the last 24 hours, if you have a sore throat, and if you feel short of breath. Answering yes to all questions above means that you might in fact have contracted H1N1, and need to see a doctor immediately.

“It is already clear that certain people are more vulnerable to the effects of H1N1 flu virus than others,” added Dr. Arthur Kellermann, professor of emergency medicine and an associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine. “By providing an at-home tool that can help users evaluate whether they need to see a provider before they head to the hospital, we can encourage those who are severely ill or at risk for serious illness to contact their doctor, and reassure everyone else that it is safe and prudent to recover at home. This will reduce the number of people needlessly exposed to H1N1 influenza in crowded clinic and ER waiting rooms, and allow doctors and nurses to focus their attention on those who need them most.”

Microsoft has the possibility to collect data from the users that perform the self-assessment. However, the Redmond company won’t store or share the information, unless the users specifically agree to this. The software giant underlined that patients should not substitute the H1N1 Flu Response Center for real medical services, and indicated that users should only use the service for self-assessment, but that ultimately they will need to see a doctor if they are ill.

“Any pandemic has the potential to create major disruptions in society,” noted David Cerino, general manager, Microsoft Health Solutions Group. “Now more than ever, we are in a position to implement solutions to help people make better decisions during these outbreaks, such as social distancing, because of the technological advancements that companies like Microsoft have made over the past few years.”


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Side effects are reported from early swine flu vaccinations

Vaccine is the best tool against swine flu despite reports of a few minor side effects from the initial campaign in China, the World Health Organization said.

Four out of 39,000 people vaccinated against H1N1 in China have had side effects such as muscle cramps and headache, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said.

"Adverse events are fully to be expected, especially these mild types," Hartl said Monday, adding that this was particularly true in cases where very large numbers of people are being vaccinated.

The vaccination campaign will soon move to Australia, the United States and parts of Europe, he said, encouraging people — especially health care workers — to be vaccinated.

"The vaccine is the single most important tool that we have against influenza," Hartl said. "For certain groups such as health care workers, it's doubly important to get vaccinated because health care workers have the ability to protect both themselves and to protect others by getting vaccinated."

The U.S. government will be tracking possible side effects when mass flu vaccinations begin this month in hopes of quickly detecting any rare problems that are actually caused by the vaccine and not pure coincidence.


Monday, 5 October 2009

Swine flu vaccine arriving, but don't line up yet

And we're off: Swine flu vaccinations begin this week, after months of preparations and promises. But don't start bugging your doctor about an appointment just yet.

This week's initial shipments to states are so small that, with a few exceptions for children, most states are reserving them for health workers so they'll stay healthy enough to care for the flu-stricken and vaccinate others.

Inoculations won't gear up in earnest until mid-October, when at least 40 million doses against what scientists call the 2009 H1N1 flu will have rolled out, with more arriving each week after that.

This is uncharted territory — you really can't plan too far ahead to say, "I'll schedule my shot on Oct. 16 at Clinic X." Only as shipments start arriving will local doctors, clinics, school vaccination programs and drugstores get word that their doses are coming and how much. Each state health department decides that.

People will have to stay tuned.

"Take a deep breath, be patient, wait a couple of days, make another phone call and cut everyone a little slack, because it's a little hectic out there, folks," says Dr. William Schaffner, a flu vaccine specialist at Vanderbilt University.

Here's what you need to know:

Q: Why not wait to start until there's enough for everybody instead of the confusing here-and-there vaccinations?

A: Even though Sunday was the official start of flu season, this H1N1 wasn't heeding the calendar — it's already causing illness in nearly every state. That means getting vaccine to the people at highest risk is a race. So each week, states will distribute however much they have on hand.

Q: If factories are still racing vaccine out the door, how can I be sure it's safe?

A: The Food and Drug Administration clears batches of vaccine before they're released. The H1N1 vaccine is made in the same way as the regular winter flu vaccine that is used with very few, minor side effects by nearly 100 million Americans a year. There's no biological reason the H1N1 vaccine should react any differently, and no red flags have appeared in studies of several thousand people.

"What I want people to know is that no corners have been cut at all," said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Q: Why is the nasal-spray vaccine arriving before the shots, and can I use either one?

A: They're considered equally effective, but the maker of the squirt-in-the-nose FluMist was able to finish brewing sooner. There is an important difference, though. Flu shots, made of killed flu virus, are for anyone without an egg allergy. FluMist, besides the egg issue, is only for use in healthy people ages 2 to 49. It's made of live but weakened flu virus. So some people on the first-in-line list for H1N1 vaccine aren't eligible for FluMist.

Q: Who's first in line?

A: Pregnant women; the young, ages 6 months through 24 years; people younger than 64 who have conditions such as asthma or diabetes that increase the risk of complications from flu; health workers and caregivers of newborns.

Q: I thought flu was most dangerous to people 65 and older.

A: Regular winter flu is most dangerous to older adults, but the new H1N1 is predominantly striking the young.

Q: How many shots, or squirts, will I need?

A: Most people will need one dose each of the H1N1 vaccine and the regular winter flu vaccine. But health authorities believe children under 10 will need two doses of the H1N1 vaccine, about three weeks apart. And some very young children getting their first regular flu vaccination will need two doses of it, too, for a total a four inoculations.

Q: Can I get both types of vaccine at the same visit?

A: If you're lucky enough to find a provider who has both at the same time, a jab in each arm is OK, or a jab of one and a squirt of the other. If you opt for the FluMist version of each vaccine, however, you're supposed to wait three to four weeks between squirts.

Q: What if I'm not on the high-risk list and want H1N1 vaccine anyway?

A: Only some will be physically reserved, doses sent to schools or obstetricians, for example. But eventually enough is expected for everyone who wants it within just a few weeks. The government doesn't expect people to be turned away unless that day's supplies run out.

Q: What will it cost?

A: The H1N1 vaccine itself is free because the government bought it with your tax dollars. But providers can charge a small fee for administering it, usually about $20. Regular flu shots tend to cost up to $35.

Q: If H1N1 is the only kind of flu making people sick now, why do I need the regular shot?

A: Health authorities expect regular flu strains to start circulating, too, as it gets colder; seasonal flu typically peaks in January.

Associated Press

The Tonya Harding Video

Another American celebrity has caught in scandal. The people who have interest in sport of skating will not take a single second to recall the name of Tonya Harding, the former champion of figure skating of America.
The scandal is about a tape, a sex tape, in which she is doing sex with a guy. The man is Jeff Gillooly. It is said that Gillooly had made that tape when Tonya was his life partner and after she broke the relation with him, he sold the tape to a tabloid show for some pennies.
This is regrettable to say that this sex tape is the most searching tape on Google nowadays. I think that this phenomena of celeb’s sex tapes first started with Paris Hilton.
Tonya Mexane Harding is a former American figure skating champion. In 1991, she took 1st position in American figure skating championships. She stood second in the worlds skating championships. She was the second woman and the first American woman who was able to do triple axle jump in competition.
Harding was born in Portland, Oregon, the daughter of LaVona and Al Harding. She had a half brother named Chris Davison (deceased). Her father had health problems which sometimes made him unable to work. Harding claims that her mother abused her physically; a claim denied by her mother. Harding began skating at an early age. She landed her first triple lutz at age 12. Her mother made many of her skating costumes.
She married Jeff Gillooly in 1990, when she was 19 years old. Their tumultuous marriage ended in divorce in 1993, when she was just 22 years old.

Tonya Harding Sex Tape - Click To Watch

Windows 7 Leaked On Ebay

PC users don't have to wait until Windows 7 is officially launched later this month to get their hands on Microsoft's new operating system—it's already for sale on eBay, and at cut rate prices.

Officially, the full version of Windows 7 Professional is $299, with upgrades going for $199. Windows 7 Ultimate is priced at $319, with the upgrade version at $219. The full version of Windows 7 Home Premium is priced at $199, with an upgrade from Vista or XP costing $119.

Some sellers are pitching retail boxed versions of the software while others, the majority, are offering registration keys that allow users to activate a previously downloaded copy of Windows 7. Microsoft has already released Windows 7 to businesses, so it's possible the sellers obtained access to the software keys through their jobs or other professional contacts.

It's buyer beware, however. The software may lack Microsoft's official Certificate Of Authenticity and other piracy protection measures. So it's questionable whether purchasers will receive support for the product, or whether it will even run at all.

Under some circumstances, reselling software violates Microsoft's licensing terms and may also be illegal. The software maker has sued numerous eBay members in the past, accusing them of distributing pirated or counterfeited versions of its products.

Windows 7 officially goes on sale Oct. 22nd, with Microsoft planning a series of events and launch parties around the country.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

An Indepth look Into Swine Flu Q&A

Swine flu has spread across the world since emerging in Mexico and is now officially the first flu pandemic for 40 years. Experts fear millions of people will be infected.

What is swine flu and what are the symptoms?

Human body with internal organs
Typical symptoms: sudden fever (38C or above) and sudden cough
1. Other symptoms include: Tiredness and chills
2. Headache, sore throat, runny nose and sneezing
3. Stomach upset, loss of appetite, diarrhoea
4. Aching muscles, limb or joint pain

Swine flu is a respiratory disease, caused by a strain of the influenza type A virus known as H1N1.

H1N1 is the same strain which causes seasonal outbreaks of flu in humans on a regular basis.

But this latest version of H1N1 is different: it contains genetic material that is typically found in strains of the virus that affect humans, birds and swine.

Although the strain may have originated in pigs, it is now a wholly human disease.

It can be spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing.

Symptoms of swine flu in humans appear to be similar to those produced by standard, seasonal flu.

A fever - which is a temperature of 38ºC (100.4ºF) - is the key symptom, combined with other complaints which may include a cough, sore throat, body aches, chills and aching limbs. Some people with the virus have also reported nausea and diarrhoea.

As with normal flu, the severity of symptoms will depend on treatment and the individual. Many people have only suffered mildly and have begun to recover within a week.

People are most infectious soon after they develop symptoms, but they cease to be a risk once those symptoms have disappeared. The incubation period may be as little as two days.

Apparently healthy people are dying from the virus. Does that means it is getting worse?

Experts say this does not change anything.

People with lung disease
People with heart disease
People with kidney disease
People with diabetes
Those with immunosuppression problems either because of treatment or disease
Patients who have had drug treatment for asthma
Pregnant women
Children under five

Apparently healthy people can die of any flu-related virus if it causes complications such as pneumonia so these latest deaths do not give any extra cause for concern.

Indeed, so far, many people who have developed symptoms of infection have not needed drugs to make a full recovery, according to the WHO.

Flu expert Professor Peter Openshaw, of Imperial College London, says about one in every three people who become infected will not realise they have had swine flu because they will have had no or only very few symptoms.

"About 98% of people who get infected will recover fully without any hospital treatment so I think the public needs to be reassured."

The real fear is that the strain will mutate and become more virulent which would pose a greater threat. This has been the feature of previous flu pandemics.

But this has not yet happened - and in any event it is worth remembering that seasonal flu often poses a serious threat to public health - each year it kills 250,000 - 500,000 around the world.

Why are younger people more affected?

In the UK the infection has been found to affect younger people more due to it spreading quickly in schools where there is a lot of mixing and where infections can quickly spread. This is not unusual and children are known to be important in the spread of flu. It is thought that older age groups may have some immunity as they have been exposed to previous H1N1 viruses.

Why has the UK been more affected than other countries?

The UK has a comprehensive flu surveillance system, hence more cases may be identified in the UK than in other countries with less comprehensive monitoring services.

Also, the spread of the infection in the early stages was linked to flights out of Mexico. With Mexico being a popular tourist destination for British tourists, Britain was one of the first countries alongside America and Canada to start seeing cases.

As the UK was affected earlier than some other countries the infection has spread to a higher number of people.

What should I do if I think I have it?

Anyone with flu-like symptoms who suspects they might have the swine flu virus are being advised to stay at home and contact the National Flu Service on 0800 1 513 100 or via the internet at www.direct.gov.uk/pandemicflu

The service allows sufferers to get access to anti-flu drugs without the need to consult a GP.

However, those with underlying health conditions, the under ones and pregnant women are still being advised to contact a doctor.

The GP route is also open to anyone who does not want to use the service.

In the initial phase of the outbreak, lab testing was done to diagnose the flu but this is no longer happening routinely.

How is it treated?

Two drugs commonly used to treat flu, Tamiflu and Relenza, are effective at treating infection, reducing the length of the illness and cutting the chances that people will have serious complications.

Use of these drugs may also make it less likely that infected people will pass the virus on to others.

However, the drugs must be administered at an early stage to be effective.

Researchers have also questioned whether the drugs are helpful in children aged between one and 12, saying the risk of side effects might outweigh any benefits.

But the Department of Health maintains a "safety-first approach" of offering antivirals to everyone remains a sensible and responsible way forward.

It said it would keep the policy under review.

The UK government already has a stockpile of Tamiflu, ordered as a precaution against a pandemic.

There is also concern that if too many people start taking anti-virals as a precaution, it could raise the risk of the virus developing resistance, reducing the drugs' effectiveness.

There is however no evidence at present that this is happening.

In any event there is little point taking these drugs as a precaution as each tablet only provides a day's worth of cover. Given that the virus may be with us for many months - or indeed years - taking a regular pill is ill-advised as the long-term side effects are not known.

The drugs can have side-effects, most commonly nausea and vomiting.

What measures then can I take to prevent infection?

As yet there is no licensed vaccine, but manufacturers are trying to develop one. Good progress is being made and it is hoped the first doses will be available by mid-October.


1918: The Spanish flu pandemic remains the most devastating outbreak of modern times. Caused by a form of the H1N1 strain of flu, it is estimated that up to 40% of the world's population were infected, and more than 50 million people died, with young adults particularly badly affected

1957: Asian flu killed two million people. Caused by a human form of the virus, H2N2, combining with a mutated strain found in wild ducks. The impact of the pandemic was minimised by rapid action by health authorities, who identified the virus, and made vaccine available speedily. The elderly were particularly vulnerable

1968: An outbreak first detected in Hong Kong, and caused by a strain known as H3N2, killed up to one million people globally, with those over 65 most likely to die

The government has announced that the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions - basically those currently eligible for the seasonal flu vaccine - will be immunised first.

Pregnant women will also be offered the vaccine as a priority.

It is hoped that even if the virus mutates in coming months, the vaccine would still confer a high degree of protection against related strains.

In the meantime, avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and who have fever and cough.

General infection control practices and good hygiene can help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including the human swine influenza.

This includes covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible and disposing of it promptly.

It is also important to wash your hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face or to other people, and cleaning hard surfaces like door handles frequently using a normal cleaning product.

In Mexico masks have been handed out to the general public, but experts are sceptical about how useful this is.

Some suggest it may even be counterproductive.

What is the advice for pregnant women?

The Department of Health has clarified its advice on how expectant mothers should protect themselves following a series of apparently mixed messages.

Concerns were heightened after a woman with swine flu died last week shortly after giving birth prematurely.

Pregnant women are among the groups at increased risk from swine flu. It is important that they follow the advice about hand hygiene.

They may also want to avoid very crowded places and unnecessary travel, but experts stressed people should use their own judgement and should carry on with their daily lives.

Where can I get further advice?

Further information and advice on swine flu can be found at websites of leading health and research organisations around the world. The World Health Organisation gives background information on the virus.

Washington preparing for a swine flu outbreak

Influenza is a public health threat that arrives in the community every fall. The emergence this year, however, of the novel H1N1 virus — also called swine flu — raises concerns about the potential for a widespread outbreak and possible spread of a more virulent strain than previously seen.

In order to prepare for and respond effectively, we must have an adequate public health system. This system must be able to: (1) recognize when influenza enters the community and track its spread, (2) prevent it when possible and mitigate its spread, (3) treat the victims of the disease and (4) strengthen the resilience of our communities to withstand the social and economic effects on the community through education and planning.

There are a few ways we can strengthen this system. First, our nation's current disease surveillance and reporting capability relies on a fragmented web of clinicians, laboratories and health facilities that look and test for influenza and other diseases. The system works, but it is not as efficient as it should be considering the speed by which today's contagious diseases spread through communities. We must correct the chronic underfunding of the nation's public health system by providing adequate and sustainable funding to address the growing demand placed on federal, state and local public health agencies.

Second, vaccines are the mainstay of our fight against vaccine-preventable diseases. Recent efforts by the federal government to ensure production of a vaccine for H1N1 influenza are admirable. Yet, having a vaccine and getting the shots into arms are two different issues. The recent recession and the loss of critical public health infrastructure at the state and local level severely challenge the ability to get people vaccinated during this outbreak.

Third, we need to ensure adequate access to antiviral agents and other therapies through the medical care system, and we need a more robust capacity within our medical care system to handle emergencies.

Finally, building a resilient community requires planning and a comprehensive approach at all levels of society from government to businesses to families and individuals. This approach enables a community to withstand the ravages of a pandemic and hasten the community's return to normal.

Operationalizing our response to a swine flu outbreak requires a coordinated effort across all levels of society. The federal government sets the national tone for successful emergency response and provides the latest information, guidance, research and advice. In the face of H1N1, the federal government has successfully led preparedness efforts by creating a national plan, working quickly to get a vaccine ready and collaborating with state and local health departments to plan for this event.

State governments must also do their part. Every state has a pandemic influenza plan. States also need to ensure the public understands these plans and what is expected of them. Soon, state officials will begin to order initial supplies of the H1N1 vaccine, will implement their distribution strategy and will need to keep people informed about how to get the vaccine. States also play a key role in collaborating with federal agencies to ensure that they are able to monitor the spread of viruses in their state, to share samples and to help convey important guidance to residents.

Local health agencies also have a role to play in ensuring we are prepared. Like the fire department or police department, communities' health departments is a first line of defense in an emergency situation and they are usually the first to know that influenza or other health threats are occurring in the community. They also manage much of the community response, which is of particular importance when social distancing strategies or disease containment strategies are used such as closing schools or canceling local events. Along with our health care providers, local health agencies are where most of us will turn for health information in an outbreak situation and they must be prepared to offer guidance.

Other sectors in our communities must also be involved. Businesses need to have a plan in place to ensure employees are able to stay home when they are sick, encourage hand washing and other prevention methods, and ensure the business can continue to serve its core function. Schools, likely to play a central role in a prevention strategy due to the rapid spread of H1N1 among youths, must also plan effectively to follow federal recommendations and keep students healthy. Other community organizations should reflect the comprehensive prevention approach and do what they can to help communicate information and help the people they serve.

Our last line of defense is each and every one of us. We have both an individual and collective responsibility to keep ourselves healthy and help prevent the spread of flu. We should follow the guidance from health authorities: get vaccinated against both seasonal and H1N1 flu, wash our hands often with soap and water, and avoid close contact with those who are sick. If we become ill, it also means helping our family, friends, co-workers and community stay healthy by staying home from work, avoiding public places, covering our mouth and nose when we cough or sneeze, and practicing good hand hygiene.

We've come a long way in being prepared for public health emergencies such as an H1N1 flu outbreak, but we have more work to do.


David Letterman had secret bedroom above Ed Sullivan theatre

An ex-"Late Show" intern unmasked herself Saturday as one of David Letterman's former flings - and sources revealed the randy funnyman keeps a bachelor pad atop the Ed Sullivan Theater.

"I was madly in love with him at the time," said Holly Hester. "I would have married him. He was hilarious."

The NYU alum, who it appears went on to become a top Hollywood producer, told TMZ.com that the relationship started in the early '90s when Letterman called and asked her on a date to the movies.

A year-long, secret romance ensued, she said, until the funnyman called it off because of their age difference.

Outside what is believed to be Hester's country home in Sebastopol, Calif. - in ritzy Sonoma County - a middle-aged man lashed out at a Daily News reporter last night. "Get the f--- out of here. We're being offered a lot of money for this s---," he said.

He then hopped in a gray SUV and floored it up a half-mile long driveway leading to the home. Hester did not emerge.

The IMDB database shows that a Holly Hester is a veteran TV producer who has worked on a string of hit shows, including "Ellen," "Drew Carey," and "Grace Under Fire." It was unclear if she is the same Hester, but public records also show a Holly Hester is married to an experienced TV graphics guy who once worked for Letterman.

The Hester quoted by TMZ made the stunning admission as a Letterman show source dished that he kept a secret bedroom above his set in the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway. "He doesn't have to come out," a staffer said. "He has a suite upstairs."

An ex-"Late Show" staffer said Letterman kept a room insiders dubbed "the bunker" that was open only to his favorite young female underlings.

Letterman, 62, admitted on the air Thursday that he had had several affairs, apparently while dating longtime love Regina Lasko, who he married in March. The two have a son, Harry, 5.

A longtime assistant said he had the ability to cast a spell on the ladies.

"I don't think women ever get over Dave," Laurie Diamond told London's Daily Telegraph.

A woman identified as a former paramour, Stephanie Birkitt, 34, remained in hiding Saturday. She was, until recently, dating Joe Halderman, who was arrested Thursday for allegedly threatening to go public with Letterman's dalliances unless he was paid $2 million.

A "Late Show" office worker in 1997, Birkitt quickly developed a role as Letterman's Girl Friday. She went on to appear in several skits as his comic foil. Behind the scenes, their relationship became intimate, sources said.

"The creepy relationship that Letterman maintained with Stephanie was obvious and not normal," an insider said. "She was able to do anything and everything ... It was pretty well known that Stephanie was the one that Letterman was having fun with."

In numerous interviews, Birkitt gushed about Letterman, calling him "the greatest boss I could ever have."

rschapiro for nydailynews.com

8 US Troops Killed In Attack on Afghan Outpost

KABUL, Oct. 4--Firing rockets and rifles, Taliban militiamen attacked American and Afghan military outposts in a day-long siege on Saturday that killed eight U.S. soldiers and two Afghan security forces in one of the deadliest battles in months, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

The fighting began early Saturday morning and raged throughout the day in a remote region of eastern Afghanistan in Nurestan province, which borders Pakistan. Staging their attack from a mosque and a nearby village, the Taliban fighters attacked the small American and Afghan bases using rifles, machine guns, grenades and rockets, according to U.S. military officials. By Sunday morning, when the U.S. military made the attack public in a statement, the area was "largely secure but I do think there is still some activity," said Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a U.S. military spokeswoman.

In addition to the eight soldiers killed, others were injured, Mathias said, but she didn't specify the number. The American soldiers called in attack helicopter and airplane support during the fighting and the military statement said coalition troops eventually repelled the attack while inflicting "heavy enemy casualties." The U.S. military said it was not immediately clear how many insurgents were involved in the fighting or their affiliation.

The attack took place in a sparsely populated area of forested mountains, near the town of Kamdeysh, according to Gen. Zahir Azimi, a Defense Ministry spokesman. The deputy police chief of Nurestan province, Mohammad Farouq, said the insurgents, a Taliban group which included Pakistani, Uzbek and Arab fighters, intended to seize control of the Kamdeysh area and that hundreds took part in the fighting. He said more than 20 Afghan soldiers and police have gone missing since the fighting began and may have been taken hostage.

"Americans always want to fight in Afghanistan," Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, who took credit for the attack by telephone. "If the Americans want to increase their troops, we will increase our fighters as well."

He said the battle began at 6:00 a.m. Saturday and involved 250 Taliban fighters. He claimed that dozens of American and Afghan soldiers were killed, along with seven Taliban fighters. Mujahid also claimed that the district police chief and intelligence chief were among the hostages, but that could not be confirmed.

Farouq, the deputy police chief, said the attack, the biggest his province has seen, was highly organized and began by taking out the police radio system. "Since the attack began I've been unable to communicate with the police chief, we are still trying to find out where he is," he said.

The American soldiers from this outpost were scheduled to depart the area as part of the new U.S. strategy to focus their efforts on securing areas with larger populations. Capt. Mathias said the soldiers at the outpost were not expected to leave this month and had not yet begun to prepare for their departure when they came under attack.

"My heart goes out to the families of those we have lost and to their fellow Soldiers who remained to finish this fight," Col. Randy George, commander of Task Force Mountain Warrior said in a statement. "This was a complex attack in a difficult area. Both the U.S. and Afghan Soldiers fought bravely together."

The provincial governor, Jamaluddin Badar, said that for years the Taliban have been attacking American and Afghan government facilities in the Kamdeysh area. The Taliban leadership has appointed a shadow governor in the province, Mullah Dost Muhammad, and has opened a training camp in the forest, he said.

"I have already warned the central government to help us and send more Afghan soldiers, and I warned the American soldiers they need to be more serious and stop the Taliban," Badar said in a telephone interview. "But unfortunately, nobody listened to me."

American deaths in Afghanistan have risen sharply this year as the Taliban has gained in strength and numbers and more U.S. forces are involved in operations to combat them, in places such as southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. In eastern Afghanistan, American soldiers have had to confront an expanding insurgency where fighters can easily slip across the Pakistani border to take refuge.

In its severity and location, the attack bore a striking resemblance to a deadly battle in July 2008 in the tiny village of Wanat, in the same region, which left nine U.S. soldiers dead and 27 wounded after several hours of fighting. That battle prompted three investigations and was cited by many as an example of what was wrong with the American military approach to fighting the insurgency. The attack contributed to the change in strategy to move soldiers from remote areas where they didn't have the soldiers to defeat the insurgents and move them to safer, more populated areas.

After the fighting began Saturday, the Afghan military sent a battalion of reinforcements by helicopter to the area, and began searching houses in the area, said Azimi, the Defense Ministry spokesman. He said one Afghan soldier was injured in addition to the two killed.

Afghan officials said at least one policeman and one soldier died in the fighting, and at least one other Afghan soldier was injured.

Badar, the provincial governor, said he was unaware of American plans to abandon their outpost in the area. He said that his province has a shortage of Afghan soldiers, an incompetent police force, and his province is at risk of falling to the Taliban if the Americans pull out.

"I request that they stay. If they leave, it will be very dangerous for Nurestan," he said.