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Saturday, 17 October 2009

Swine Flu Taking A Deadly Turn

WASHINGTON, DC (Associated Press) - A top federal health official is calling the latest numbers on the spread of H1N1 flu "very sobering."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the new swine flu strain is striking the U.S. early and hard. They say this virus is different from regular winter flu because it strikes the young far more than the old.

Since September, the deaths of 43 children have been reported -- including 11 during the past week.

The CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat (SHU'-kit) says that's a startling number because in some past winters, the CDC has counted 40 or 50 child deaths for the entire flu season. And no one knows how long this swine flu outbreak will last.

The World Health Organization also warns that -- in contrast to regular winter flu -- swine flu can sometimes cause a very severe viral pneumonia in otherwise healthy young adults.

Meanwhile, the federal government warns that swine-flu vaccine supplies will become more scarce than expected through October. Manufacturer delays mean flu-shot clinics in some parts of the country may have to be postponed.

Federal health officials say, however, that enough vaccine will eventually be available for everyone who wants it.

Swine flu kills 11 children in past week

Swine flu is causing unprecedented illness for so early in the fall -- including a worrisome count of child deaths -- and the government warned Friday that vaccine supplies will be even more scarce than expected through this month.

Federal health officials said 11 more children have died in the past week because of the virus.

Manufacturer delays mean 28 million to 30 million doses, at most, will be spread around the country by the end of the month. That means flu-immunization clinics in some parts of the country may have to be postponed.

Meanwhile, preliminary tests show three pigs in Minnesota may have contracted the swine flu virus, making them the first potential U.S. cases in swine, agricultural officials said. They stressed that he finding does not threaten food safety.


Friday, 16 October 2009

Swine flu detected in pigs in Minnesota

CHICAGO: Pigs in the state of Minnesota may have become infected with swine flu, officials said on Friday, citing preliminary tests taken at a state fair.

If the initial results are confirmed it would be the first case of the pandemic virus detected in US hogs.

"We currently are testing the Minnesota samples to determine if this is 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

"I want to remind people that they cannot get this flu from eating pork or pork products."

The pigs sampled at the fair showed no sign of illness and were apparently healthy, the agriculture department said.

However an outbreak of swine flu occurred in a group of children housed in a dormitory at the fair around the same time the tests were conducted from August 26 through September 1.

"Information available at this time would suggest the children were not sickened by contact with the fair pigs," the agriculture department said.

Final test results are expected in a few days.

At least 4,735 people have died from swine flu infections since the A(H1N1) virus was uncovered in April, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.

This is an increase of 210 fatal cases from a week ago when 4,525 deaths were recorded, the UN health agency said in its weekly update of the pandemic.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

U.S. could potentially use controversial adjuvants in swine flu vaccine

The World Health Organization estimates that a worldwide production capacity of 3 billion doses of pandemic H1N1 vaccines will be used to prevent the outbreak and spread of the 2009 H1N1 flu, or "swine flu," as it is better known. This ambitious plan for widespread vaccine use, albeit inadequate for a total population of 6.8 billion people, has drawn criticism regarding the vaccine's safety, and the use and potential use of vaccine adjuvants.

In the alternative health community, chiropractor Ginger Mills, DC, of Redwood City, is concerned that adjuvants, especially squalene, will be added to vaccines used in the U.S., should the number of cases rise. "Squalene is an oil that is found in olives and in certain other foods, and is perfectly healthy when you ingest it — but when injected into the bloodstream, it can have adverse effects."

Adjuvants enhance or "supercharge" the immune response, reduce the number of vaccines needed, and allow supplies to last longer. Currently, aluminum salts are the only approved vaccine adjuvants for use in the United States. The use of adjuvants has been suspected, but not confirmed, in the development of illnesses in Gulf War veterans who may have received squalene-containing anthrax vaccines.

However, the current stock of U.S. swine flu vaccines does not contain adjuvants, according to Anne Schuchat, MD, in an informational video produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Schuchat does acknowledge that there is an emergency provision to use them — should the pandemic accelerate.

Adjuvants are being used in swine flu vaccines in countries outside of the United States, including Canada, Europe and Australia. However, even though Canada is using an adjuvanted vaccine, it has also ordered 1.8 million doses of the unadjuvanted vaccine for use in pregnant women and children under the age of 3.

Maine physician Meryl Nass, MD, has written widely on the use of vaccines. "If novel adjuvants do get added (in the U.S.) — only if conditions change — it would preclude the quick licensure process that took place for the licensed H1N1 vaccines. Recipients would need to sign an informed consent for an experimental product," said Nass. "I do not believe they would be 'secretly' added."

The World Health Organization has tried to allay concerns about the vaccine and states that clinical trials suggest this vaccine is as safe as the seasonal influenza vaccines, and that most countries have vaccine monitoring systems in place. Without specifically addressing the use of adjuvants, WHO states that any vaccine side effects are expected to be of short-term duration, such as injection site soreness, swelling and redness, and possibly, headache, fever and muscle aches. However, WHO also has a disclaimer that "even very large clinical trials will not be able to identify possible rare events that can occur when pandemic vaccines are administered to many millions of people."

With a pivotal and profitable role played by the pharmaceutical industry in vaccine production, Nass suggests that there is a lack of "unconflicted data" available about adjuvants. "Nearly all of the MF59 (adjuvant) data were derived from the manufacturer of MF59, for example," said Nass. "It is more the lack of reliable data, and gives the impression that something is being hidden. Those of us who are familiar with the subject are concerned that if these adjuvants were used en masse, we would face some bad outcomes. The FDA has been sitting on them for 10 years, and usually, that means that the FDA is aware of significant problems."

Nass testified before Congress in 2001 that the FDA needed to make a decision on the safety of adjuvants, so manufacturers could know whether they could include them in vaccines or not. "It seems that the FDA and the manufacturers have been waiting for a pandemic to solve the problem for them," said Nass. "It was going to be avian flu — an adjuvanted vaccine for H5N1 avian flu was approved in many countries, but the disease never spread person to person. Then swine flu came along, and Glaxo and Novartis got another bite at the cherry. You see, once these adjuvants get into licensed products in the U.S., they will become part of all sorts of novel vaccines for cancer and non-infectious diseases, whose antigens are waiting in the wings."

The adjuvant question may not be answered in this pandemic go-round either. In the latest CDC FluView assessment of influenza activity in the United States, there is swine flu activity in 26 states — but many of the cases are mild and are not included in the count. The U.S. government has ordered 195 million vaccines that will be distributed through coordination with states and distribution centers.

While the official influenza season began Oct. 4, cases of swine flu appeared earlier — even in a number of pandemic experts themselves. And when it becomes personal, the use of a vaccine may seem like a good idea.

Author of "The Coming Plague," Laurie Garrett wrote in Newsweek about her September bout with swine flu, and described its symptoms as "days of semi-delirium, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, and stomach twisting."

Another pandemic expert and Google executive, Larry Brilliant, led the WHO team that was responsible for smallpox eradication in Southeast Asia and India. Brilliant, a physician and epidemiologist, is now president of the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund, and recently became one of the expected 100 million Americans to develop the swine flu.

"But while I was never sick enough to consider going to see my doctor or going to an ER, I would not wish this disease on anyone and I certainly would have preferred a vaccination to this teeth-rattling bug," wrote Brilliant on Huffington Post.

"Most poignantly, even though I tried to stay isolated, I infected one of my children who also spent a lousy sweat-soaked, teeth-chattering week dancing with the swine. No loving parent would ever want to spread this disease to his or her kids. If the sole reason to get vaccinated were to prevent my spreading this disease to my family and community, that alone would make getting vaccinated an easy choice for me."


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A Swine Flu to-do ( and not to-do ) run down

Swine flu vaccines are rolling out this month -- finally. Health-care workers in Indiana and Tennessee were the first to get the nose-spray version, while New Yorkers clamoring for the H1N1 vaccine finally had their chance too.
People with flu-like symptoms such as fever, aches, stuffy nose, and chills, should stay home.

However, the onslaught of information about H1N1 -- be it playground rumors, employer signs telling you to cover your cough, memos from your kids' school, or scary-sounding news reports -- is making it pretty hard to figure out what you should be doing right now.

Although some people have already been vaccinated, it could be weeks -- depending on your age and risk factors -- before you even get a chance at the shot (or spray). So now what?

Sometimes it feels like you have two choices. A: Wring your hands endlessly about something over which you have no control. Or, B: Tune out the static and pretend this is all just a horrible dream. (Call it the ignore-the-whole-sorry-mess-until-my-neighbor-is-sick approach.)

Well, guess what? There are a few things you should -- and should not -- be doing at the moment. Here's your guide.

Look up local flu outbreaks.

If you're getting most of your news from the Internet -- and about 40 percent of people say they do -- you may not be up on H1N1 activity in your community.

Take the time to check local flu activity on the online version of your local newspaper (remember those?) or health department, or check out Web sites like Google Flu Trends (though keep in mind that this map is based on search trends and could be skewed if lots of healthy people are searching for information). There's also FluTrends, which is produced by Rhiza Labs, and includes past cases and current activity, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) weekly flu update.

If your city or state is a bit of a hot spot, you may need to focus on some of these to-do points sooner than others. The good news is that some of the hardest hit areas in spring -- like New York -- don't seem to have that many H1N1 cases at the moment. (Experts estimate that up to 1 million New Yorkers may have had H1N1 in the spring, which would protect against subsequent infections.)
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* H1N1: Fighting swine flu

Don't panic.

For most people, an H1N1 infection is generally mild and can be cured with time, bed rest, and fluids. The virus is serious, though -- particularly for those in high-risk groups. So far this year, 28 pregnant women have died of H1N1, and 76 children died in the spring. "At least two-thirds of [the children] had underlying conditions, which we recognize as putting them at increased risk for complications," says Dr. Nathan Litman, the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore, in New York City. High-risk people, whether adults or children, tend to have chronic heart or lung conditions (including asthma), weakened immune systems due to disease or chemotherapy treatment, or diabetes.

That said, H1N1 will feel like seasonal flu for most people. "I'd say at the present time the swine flu looks no more serious than the routine seasonal influenza," says Litman.

Stay home.

Are you sick right now? Say, with flu-like symptoms such as fever, aches, stuffy nose, and chills? Sorry, but it's quite possible you already have swine flu. Experts say that flu activity is higher-than-normal for this time of year and almost all of it is due to H1N1. If you (or your child) are not in a high-risk group, it's best to stay put.

If a child is 2 or older "and has no risk factors for complications and has fever, runny nose, or cough, the best thing to do is to stay home," says Litman. "Plenty of fluids, Tylenol, Motrin, or Advil for fever, and it should run its course on its own." Health.com: How to call in sick without jeopardizing your job

If a child has difficulty breathing, is unable to take fluids, or starts to be less responsive, or after appearing to recover from the influenza develops a fever and starts coughing again, then see a doctor.

If you are pregnant and have flu symptoms, it might be best to call your doctor before going in to see him or her, says Litman. Health.com: 8 Ways swine flu is changing society

"They may want to set up a separate location to be seen or separate times to see sick patients," he says. "You don't want the pregnant woman with influenza who is coughing and sneezing to go into the room with pregnant women who are well and just there to get routine prenatal care."

Understand the risks.

While the symptoms of H1N1 may be no different from seasonal flu, there are some key differences. H1N1 may be easier to catch than regular flu, and younger people may be more likely to come down with it than older people.

"From what I've seen, I actually believe it to be more contagious," says Litman. Often with the seasonal flu that's circulating, a percentage of the population has some immunity to it. With H1N1, it looks like most people -- other than the elderly -- have no immunity to it, and that may be why it appears more contagious, he says.

People who are older than 60 may have been exposed to a swine-flu-like virus in the distant past, which is giving them an edge with this pandemic. That's not to say they can't get sick, but "many of them appear to have immunity from a prior infection with a similar virus or cross reactions with a similar virus that help protect them against the swine flu," says Litman.

Get a seasonal flu shot. The regular seasonal flu shots are available now, and it makes sense to "get the jab" (as the Brits say). While most flu cases happening right now are caused by H1N1, "in two months or three months it may be the regular seasonal flu and we should be prepared for that," says Litman. "Since that vaccine is currently available, I recommend that everyone considered a risk group receive the seasonal flu vaccine." Seasonal flu can be just as dangerous as H1N1; about 36,000 people die, including about 80 children, of seasonal flu every year.

Get a pneumonia vaccine.

What, another shot? For the vaccine wary, this might just feel like one too many pinpricks. However, the pneumonia vaccine, a shot that can help prevent any illness caused by certain types of pneumococcus bacteria, including meningitis and ear infections, may be a good idea too.

The CDC has analyzed H1N1-related deaths and found many people who died had dual infections, including some with pneumococcus. The good news is that if you're up-to-date on your child's vaccines, they probably already have it. Approved in 2001 and called Prevnar, it's routinely given to children.

Another vaccine, Pneumovax, is available for adults, and is recommended for the elderly and those at high risk of infections.

Wash your hands.

Just about every expert is chanting a "wash your hands" mantra. And, in fact, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol rub can help. However, when it comes to flu, just keep in mind that hand-washing may fall into the "can't hurt and may help" category. Because flu virus can hitch a ride on airborne water droplets, you can inhale the virus and get sick even if you wear gloves 24-7 or scrub-in like a brain surgeon. But again, flu viruses can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours. So, yes, wash up. Plus, good hygiene can protect you from other germs, like pneumococcus, which could make a simple case of flu much worse when added into the mix. Health.com: 10 Ways you may be putting yourself at risk for swine flu

Don't stock up on face masks or Tamiflu.

If you're the type of person who hoarded cans of soup and bottled water in 1999 just in case the world ended in 2000, it can be tempting to grab a box of surgical masks "just in case." The CDC and most experts say that's not a recommended or a proven way to prevent infection, although some studies suggest that they can be helpful in homes with a flu-infected family member or when used by hospital workers in place of a N95 respirator.

And while it may seem perfectly harmless to stockpile antiviral drugs, it isn't. If Tamiflu is gathering dust in your medicine cabinet, then people who truly need it may find the pharmacies are fresh out. And the surest route to a drug-resistant flu virus is having people taking it "just in case" or for symptoms that would go away on their own.

Get a swine flu vaccine -- really.

Or at least seriously consider it. Lots of people are not crazy about vaccines in general, and fully one-third of parents say they're going to skip them for their child, according to an AP poll. Understandable. Taking something that could cause side effects, when you feel (or your child feels) perfectly healthy is tough. But keep in mind that if you're thinking about waiting until swine flu is in full force in your community, it may be too late. It can take several weeks after vaccination before your immune system ramps up to full-protection mode. Health.com: Home treatment for flu

If you or your child is perfectly healthy, you can get the nose-spray version, which contains a weakened, but not killed, virus. Unfortunately, if you're in a high-risk group, you may have to wait a bit for the version with killed virus, which is given in shot form. Those should be available in mid- to late-October.

While mulling over your options, try not to think of large federal agencies as faceless giants trying to impose vaccines on you. In fact, such agencies are staffed by scientists and doctors who are trying to protect the public.

"Each year approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of children between 5 and 19 years of age get influenza, that not only keeps them out of school for a few days, but they are also the epicenter of the epidemic -- they spread it to household contacts, other school contacts, and high-risk people in the community, like the elderly -- their grandparents," says Litman. "For their benefit and for the benefit of others, it's wise to get both the seasonal flu vaccine and swine flu vaccine."

Don't let the past haunt you. Although the 2009 virus has been tagged with the unfortunate moniker swine flu (just like the 1976 version), there is a world of difference between the two. For one, they are different viruses. And if you were alive in 1976, you were probably digging the bicentennial, groovy pants, and platform shoes, but your chances of getting swine flu were pretty much nil. (There were roughly 200 cases in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and the virus never spread.) Health.com Swine flu in perspective: Pandemic scares throughout history

Fast forward to 2009, which is truly a pandemic -- there have been more than 340,000 confirmed cases worldwide and nearly 44,000 confirmed and probable cases in the U.S. alone. (The CDC estimates that more than 1 million people have contracted swine flu, but that their cases weren't recorded because they didn't seek treatment.) And the '76 version did have a problem with side effects, including Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare condition in which the immune system attacks nerves, resulting in weakness and even paralysis (although most people eventually recover).

However, the vaccine production used in the 1970s now looks as outdated as your striped bell-bottoms and rockin' sideburns.

"Over the years there have been several improvements in vaccine manufacturing," says Dr. Claudia Vellozzi, the assistant director of the CDC's Immunization Safety Office. "That certainly plays a role in improved vaccine safety now, compared to 1976."
Health Library

* MayoClinic.com: Swine flu (H1N1 flu)

Of the 30 to 40 million people vaccinated for swine flu in 1976, about 1 in 100,000 did develop GBS. However, current research suggests there is little to no GBS risk associated with seasonal flu vaccine.

"There have been one or two studies that showed that if there is a risk, it's very small, or about one in 1,000,000 additional cases of GBS would be attributable to the flu vaccine -- but most studies have not supported any association," she says. (There are 2,000 to 3,000 GBS cases in the U.S. every year, unrelated to vaccines, says Vellozzi. The cause is unknown, but it can be triggered by infections.)

"In terms of our current vaccine, we expect to have a similar safety profile as our seasonal flu vaccine, which has a good track record," she says.

Be prepared.

If you do want to get an H1N1 flu shot, it's best to be patient. It may take weeks before everyone who wants one can get it. In the meantime, think about what you will do if you or a family member does get sick.

"Get immunized, wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose if you're sneezing or coughing, stay home if you're sick, and if any warning signs come up -- difficulty breathing, not responsive as usual, unable to take fluids, or after a day or two of the fever coming down and having more fever and cough again -- see the doctor," says Litman

Monday, 12 October 2009

Growing evidence Swine Flu was made in a lab then released (video)

There has been growing evidence now for some time that the Swine Flu virus H1N1 is a created pandemic , should this effect the steps you take when considering vaccinations and medication the gov are insitant that we take? Watch the video below.

Michael Jackson's This Is It leaked

A snippet of the new Michael Jackson song, "This Is It," was apparently leaked online before its planned release on the late singer's Web site early Monday.
Interest has been running high in "This Is It" -- the song, the two-disc album and the movie.

Interest has been running high in "This Is It" -- the song, the two-disc album and the movie.

About 45 seconds of the song made the rounds online Sunday.

Jackson's song was released on Michaeljackson.com about midnight Monday. It will be followed by a two-disc album on October 26. One of the albums is named after the song.

The album "This Is It" features music that inspired the film "Michael Jackson's This Is It," which is scheduled for release October 28.

The album's first disc features some of Jackson's biggest hits, arranged in sequence as they appear in the film. The disc ends with "This Is It," which includes backup vocals by The Jacksons.

Disc two offers previously unreleased versions of some of the artist's classic tracks.

The song will play at the close of the film, which will feature Jackson's career highlights and last rehearsals, his publicists said. (CNN)

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Swine Flu Proof business suit now on the market

A Japanese company claims to have created a swine flu-proof suit that reportedly shields the wearer from the deadly bug.

The business suits, which come in a range of colours and styles, are coated with titanium dioxide which reportedly breaks down the H1N1 virus when it comes into contact with the suit.

The chemical reacts to light and has also been used in cosmetics, toothpaste and sunscreen.

There have been more than 340,000 confirmed cases of swine flu and 4100 deaths around the world since the global outbreak was identified in April.

A total of 183 deaths have been recorded in Australia and 18 people have died in Japan after contracting the virus.

The Haruyama Trading Co has manufactured 50,000 of the suits, which will sell for about $650 each.

A medium grey, charcoal, navy and grey pinstripe designs will hit Japanese stores today.