The United Nations health agency will review the way it dealt with the outbreak of swine flu once the pandemic has subsided, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told a news briefing.
“Criticism is part of an outbreak cycle. We expect and indeed welcome criticism and the chance to discuss it,” she said, adding the WHO’s review would involve independent outside experts and its results would be made public.
But she said it was too soon to say when the examination would take place or which experts would be involved.
In the latest complaint about the way authorities have dealt with the pandemic, the Council of Europe, a political forum of most European countries, is to determine whether drug companies influenced public health officials to spend money unnecessarily on stockpiles of H1N1 vaccines.
Chaib said the WHO took its work of providing independent advice to its 193 member states seriously, and guarded against the influence of vested interests.
Several countries are cutting back orders for H1N1 vaccines as it becomes clear that the outbreak, declared a global pandemic by the WHO in June, is not as severe as at first feared.
Governments will have an opportunity to question the WHO about H1N1 at a meeting of its 34-member board next week.
The WHO’s top flu expert, Keiji Fukuda, will brief the board on January 18 about the latest developments in the first influenza pandemic in more than 40 years.
Developing countries still lack adequate access to both antivirals and vaccines despite donations from industrialized countries and drug makers, the WHO said.
Some 200 million doses of H1N1 vaccine and funding of some $12 million have been pledged to date, it said in a document prepared for the board.
“Significant progress in international solidarity has been achieved, through donations by developed countries and manufacturers, but overall access to antiviral medicines and vaccines in developing countries remains limited,” it said.
GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis are among H1N1 vaccine producers.
The WHO last week delivered donated H1N1 vaccine to Mongolia and Azerbaijan, the first of 95 developing and middle-income countries targeted to receive supplies.
It aims to provide these countries with enough vaccine to cover 10 percent of their populations, with health care workers a top priority.
The WHO said last week that southern hemisphere countries struck by H1N1 last year are now broadly protected against new infections, and sickness levels are declining in much of the northern hemisphere, including North America where it first emerged last April.
According to lab-confirmed cases, swine flu has killed at least 12,799 people, but the real toll is much higher and will take several years to establish, the WHO says.
November 4, 2009
A House committee will look into the federal response to the H1N1 virus at a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can expect some tough questioning about the availability of the H1N1 flu vaccine.
Meanwhile, a senior House lawmaker is seeking a quick floor vote on a bill to guarantee five paid sick days to workers if their employer tells them to stay home with H1N1 or a similar contagious illness.
House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller says his measure would protect about 50 million workers with no paid sick leave.
Many of those employees work in low-wage jobs in food service and hospitality, where they would be exposed to others and could spread their sickness. He says those workers shouldn’t have to choose between their paychecks and the health of co-workers or customers.
November 3, 2009
NBC New York
by Brian Ries
After a rough spring that saw as many as 20 to 40 percent of New Yorkers exposed to H1N1, subway riders have resorted to defending themselves with their fists.
Violence struck on a southbound D train Monday morning after two women got into an argument over one’s refusal to cover her mouth while coughing. It ended with her spitting on the other, a punch, and the second woman dragging the first to the floor of the car by her hair.
Here’s the play-by-play account, as witnessed firsthand by The Business Insider’s Lawrence Delevingne:
“No one got the conductor — it just seemed like a shouting match — but as the train pulled into 42nd Street, the coughing woman spit on the other, provoking what sounded like a punch from the reaction of the crowd (we didn’t directly see it). Then the cougher attempted to exit the train as the doors were open, but the second woman grabbed her by the back of the hair, violently yanking her down to the floor.”
Be careful out there transit riders, and remember, cover your mouth, wash your hands, and don’t spit on each other. What is this, elementary school?
October 28, 2009
By Stephaine Dearing
There are reports from Sweden of possible deaths linked to the H1N1 vaccine; unconfirmed and unwelcome news which will surely complicate the very busy flu season that has descended on most of the northern hemisphere.
While confirmation has yet to be made by health authorities in Sweden, Associated Content is reporting that four people have died after receiving the H1N1 vaccine. Three of those are alleged to have been seniors with serious underlying health conditions. Very little is known about the fourth. The Local has reported that the outbreak of H1N1 flu in Sweden has picked up speed in the past few weeks. About 1 million Swedes have been vaccinated for H1N1. Stockholm News (English) reports that the deaths are being investigated, saying
“… Yesterday the national agency received reports that two women had died a couple of days after having received the vaccine, a 90-year-old woman and a 74-year-old woman belonging to the risk group. There are two other cases investigated, one man with cardiac problems who died twelve hours after vaccination and a woman who was found dead two days after her vaccination.”
Pandemrix contains the booster adjuvant squalene, and many German physicians have recommended that young children not receive the adjuvanted vaccine. Germany’s inoculation program for H1N1 began Monday, and the German population is angry that there are two different immunizations shots for people, with the riskier one going to the general public. Cevlapan is made by Baxter, does not contain an adjuvant, and is believed to have less adverse side effects than Pandremix.
Hungary has reported one death associated with the H1N1 vaccine, although confirmation has not yet been made. Hungary is using a Hungarian-made vaccine.
In the United States, anger is rising over a lack of H1N1 vaccine. The sudden deaths of young people and children, confirmed to have been caused by the H1N1 virus in North America has sparked a demand for the vaccination on both sides of the border.
Research has found pregnant women who become ill with the flu can give birth to children with brain damage, which has been linked to emotional and developmental problems later in life. One of the scientists involved in the study recommended pregnant women get immunized against the flu saying
“There is more and more information that flu is very bad news during pregnancy.”
Glaxo-Smith-Kline has reported a surge in revenues due to demand for antiviral drugs to fight the flu, and expects to make one billion pounds from the H1N1 vaccine alone.
There have been at least 5,000 deaths worldwide caused by the H1N1 virus.
October 27, 2009
Campaign for Liberty
By Adam Murdock
The H1N1 “swine” flu is an extraordinarily deadly virus.
You need to get the vaccine or you could suffer the consequences.
So-and-so has died in your neighborhood. Do you want to be next?
The above statements are typical of the lines that have been fed to the people of the world from the controlled media. In fact, the drum beat has been so deafening that you would think that people were dropping like flies. Sure there have been some deaths related to the flu but most have affected individuals with risk factors such as pre-existing lung conditions or people who are immunocompromised. Most healthy individuals that I have personally seen and in general have experienced nothing more than run of the mill flu symptoms.
Unfortunately, a lot of the hysteria has arisen out of disinformation or lack of information. I am going to address some of the disinformation by posing a few questions. First, do people die from the virus itself? And, if so, why do some individuals succumb to the virus and not others? The answers to the above questions are not commonly known but are pretty well established in the medical community. The facts are that the flu virus is seldom the sole cause of death, even among compromised individuals. In fact, many of the fatal cases arise from individuals that acquire bacterial superinfections. These bacterial infections arise after the lining of the lung is damaged by the virus which leaves the lung susceptible. The reason for this is that the lining of the lungs are critical for the removal of infectious elements and debris acquired during inhalation or from the upper respiratory tract. When these normal mechanisms breakdown or are already impaired, as is the case in pre-existing lung conditions, fatal bacterial infections can arise. It is these infections that are frequently the culprits in the flu. A result of this knowledge is that, I, as a physician am particularly cognizant of examining patients with presumed flu for signs and symptoms of pneumonia and in particular bacterial pneumonia.
What facts about the 1918 flu made some infectious disease experts worried about the swine flu this time around? The timeline of the 1918 flu was really composed of two flu seasons. The particularly virulent form of the flu was preceded by a mild flu much earlier in the season. It is believed that the milder form of the flu was able to acquire virulence factors by “mutating” into a more virulent form that affected younger, healthier patients. It was the second more virulent form that was the cause of the millions of deaths. Or was it? The media and public health officials like to blame all the deaths on the flu. As usual, there are some “confounding” variables, which in the case of the flu are other variables that may have affected the outcomes of flu victims. The first variable was sanitation. The cities of the early twentieth century were not known for their high sanitation standards. Nor was the importance of methods for preventing transmission of the virus such as hand washing and limited close contact understood. The second variable was an understanding about the virus itself and how it spreads, which as you might expect was rather limited at that time. Finally, treatment for flu patients at the time consisted entirely of supportive care. The advent of antivirals and antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial complications of the flu had yet to be invented. These factors greatly contributed to the mortality of the disease.
What about this year’s swine flu? This year’s flu also started earlier in the year, somewhat like the 1918 virus and has been relatively mild. The fear was that this virus would also acquire the factors that would make it more virulent. It is this question that has generated all the hysteria and government intervention.
This leads me to the next question: Did we really need all the hysteria over a highly speculative event with little probability of happening?
July 29, 2009
by Barbara Starr
The U.S. military wants to establish regional teams of military personnel to assist civilian authorities in the event of a significant outbreak of the H1N1 virus this fall, according to Defense Department officials.
The proposal is awaiting final approval from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The officials would not be identified because the proposal from U.S. Northern Command’s Gen. Victor Renuart has not been approved by the secretary.
The plan calls for military task forces to work in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There is no final decision on how the military effort would be manned, but one source said it would likely include personnel from all branches of the military.
It has yet to be determined how many troops would be needed and whether they would come from the active duty or the National Guard and Reserve forces.
Civilian authorities would lead any relief efforts in the event of a major outbreak, the official said. The military, as they would for a natural disaster or other significant emergency situation, could provide support and fulfill any tasks that civilian authorities could not, such as air transport or testing of large numbers of viral samples from infected patients.
As a first step, Gates is being asked to sign a so-called “execution order” that would authorize the military to begin to conduct the detailed planning to execute the proposed plan.
Orders to deploy actual forces would be reviewed later, depending on how much of a health threat the flu poses this fall, the officials said.
July 20, 2009
by Andrew Jack
Some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies are reaping billions of dollars in extra revenue amid global concern about the spread of swine flu.
Analysts expect to see a boost in sales from GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and Sanofi-Aventis when the companies report first-half earnings lifted by government contracts for flu vaccines and antiviral medicines.
The fresh sales – on top of strong results from Novartis of Switzerland and Baxter of the US, which both also produce vaccines – come as the latest tallies show that more than 740 people have died from the H1N1 virus, and millions have been affected around the world.
GlaxoSmithKline of the UK confirmed it had sold 150m doses of a pandemic flu vaccine – equivalent to its normal sales of seasonal flu vaccine – to countries including the UK, the US, France and Belgium, and was gearing up to boost production.
GSK also produces Relenza, an antiviral medicine that reduces the length and severity of the infection, and is preparing to increase manufacturing towards 60m annual doses. The UK placed an order for 10m treatments this year.
One beneficiary of the fears about the pandemic has been Roche of Switzerland, which sells Tamiflu, the leading antiviral drug, and has seen a sharp rise in orders from private companies as well as governments.
A report last week from JPMorgan, the investment bank, estimated that governments had ordered nearly 600m doses of pandemic vaccine and adjuvant – a chemical that boosts its efficacy – worth $4.3bn (€3bn, £2.6bn) in sales, and there was potential for 342m more doses worth $2.6bn.
It forecast that fresh antiviral sales could boost sales for GSK and Roche by another $1.8bn in the developed world, and potentially up to $1.2bn from the developing world.
But there were also uncertainties for the pharmaceutical manufacturers. With demand likely to outstrip supply, and initial production suggesting that the yield for the pandemic vaccine is relatively low, they may face difficult choices in determining how much to supply to the countries seeking orders.
They are also under pressure to provide more drugs and vaccines for free, or extremely cheaply, to the developing world.
July 13, 2009
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saying the new H1N1 virus is “unstoppable”, the World Health Organization gave drug makers a full go-ahead to manufacture vaccines against the pandemic influenza strain on Monday and said healthcare workers should be the first to get one.
Every country will need to vaccinate citizens against the swine flu virus and must choose who else would get priority after nurses, doctors and technicians, said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO director of the Initiative for Vaccine Research.
Several reports showed the new virus attacks people differently than seasonal flu — affecting younger people, the severely obese and seemingly healthy adults, and causing disease deep in the lungs.
Kieny briefed reporters on the findings of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, or SAGE. “The committee recognized that the H1N1 pandemic … is unstoppable and therefore that all countries need access to vaccine,” Kieney said.
“The SAGE recognized first that healthcare workers should be immunized in all countries in order to retain a functional health system as the virus evolves,” she added.
After that, each country should decide who is next in line, based on the virus’s unusual behavior.
Seasonal influenza is deadly enough — each year it is involved in 250,000 to 500,000 deaths globally. But most are the elderly or those with some kind of chronic disease that makes them more vulnerable to flu, such as asthma.
The elderly seem to have some extra immunity to this new H1N1, which is a mixture of two swine viruses, one of which also contains genetic material from birds and humans. It is a very distant cousin of the H1N1 virus that caused the 1918 pandemic that killed 50 million to 100 million people.
A study published in the journal Nature on Monday confirmed that the blood of people born before 1920 carries antibodies to the 1918 strain, suggesting their immune systems remember a childhood infection.
The work by Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka also supports other studies that this new H1N1 strain does not stay in the nose and throat, as do most seasonal viruses.
“The H1N1 virus replicates significantly better in the lungs,” Kawaoka said. Other studies have also shown it can cause gastrointestinal effects, and that it targets people not usually thought of as being at high risk.
“Obesity has been observed to be one of the risk factors for more severe reaction to H1N1″ — something never before seen, Kieny added. It is not clear if obese people may have undiagnosed health problems that make them susceptible, or if obesity in and of itself is a risk.
On Friday, a team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Michigan reported that nine out of 10 patients treated in an intensive care unit there were obese. They also had unusual symptoms such as blood clots in the lungs and multiple organ failure.
None have recovered and three died.
The CDC estimates at least a million people are infected in the United States alone and clinics everywhere are advised not to test each and every patient, so keeping an accurate count of cases will be impossible. The United States has documented 211 deaths and WHO counted 429 early last week.
Kieny said WHO would also work to get better viruses for companies from which to make vaccines. She said the strains that had been distributed did not grow very well in chicken eggs — used to make all flu vaccines.
One exception — AstraZeneca’s MedImmune unit makes a live virus vaccine that is squirted up the nose and it is easier to produce, Kieny said.
WHO said countries should continue with their normal vaccination programs against seasonal flu. Kieny said the seasonal H3N2 strain was also very active now in the southern hemisphere’s winter.
Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Baxter, Schering-Plough’s Nobilon, GlaxoSmithKline, Solvay, CSL and AstraZeneca’s MedImmune are among those working on flu vaccines.
July 13, 2009
by Mike Adams
The fact that nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults are clinically obese is worrisome for a whole new reason: Evidence emerging from a hospital in Michigan (and published by the CDC) appears to indicate that obese patients may be very easily killed by swine flu.
In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report on death and disease, researchers documented the case of ten swine flu patients at a Michigan hospital who became so ill they were put on ventilators. Three of the patients ultimately died from the infection. The kicker? Nine of the ten were obese, and two of the three who died were severely obese.
As reported by Reuters, CDC virologist Dr. Tim Uyeki said, “What this suggests is that there can be severe complications associated with this virus infection, especially in severely obese patients.”
Notably, five of the patients showed evidence of blood clots in their lungs, indicating severe cellular trauma in the lungs. Nine of the patients suffered from multiple organ failure, and six experienced kidney failure.
These findings are especially worrisome because nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults are now clinically obese. Combined with widespread vitamin D deficiency, nutritional deficiencies and pharmaceutically-induced immune suppression, the U.S. population is more vulnerable to a pandemic right now than any other population in the history of the world.
The American people, in other words, are primed for a pandemic. Virtually no one in America is both physically fit and nutritionally healthy anymore. Shockingly, most Americans don’t even recognize physical fitness anymore, thinking that excess body fat is normal and that obese babies are just “chubby.” Should the circulating swine flu combine with seasonal flu this fall, it could devastate the immunologically vulnerable U.S. population, potentially killing millions.
The number of patients reviewed in this study is quite small (only ten), but even so, this could be a warning sign of more deaths to come from infected, obese patients. Of course, there’s really no mystery why obesity may cause extreme vulnerability to swine flu infections: The virus kills through an inflammatory process, and obesity is, itself, a highly-inflammatory condition that only exacerbates the deadliness of the H1N1 virus.
Patients who have made themselves obese — for whatever reason — have also unleashed a storm of inflammatory cytokines in their blood, and these cytokines are precisely what get over-excited during the body’s response to a swine flu infection, leading to organ damage and death. This is precisely why people wishing to survive the coming pandemic must make a special effort to attain a high level of physical and nutritional health before such a pandemic arrives.
Being obese compromises your body’s immune system, liver, heart, lungs and kidneys. This puts a serious additional burden on your body, leaving few spare resources for fighting off infections. That’s probably why nine out of ten swine flu victims documented in the Michigan hospital were obese.
The bottom line in this study is quite clear: Don’t be obese during the next pandemic. If you are obese now, let this bit of knowledge provide whatever extra motivation you need to drop some excess body fat and reduce the inflammatory burden on your body’s organs. Obesity is, after all, readily reversed through simple changes in diet and exercise habits.
June 30, 2009
By Mark Tutton
LONDON, England (CNN) — Health experts are warning parents against holding “swine flu parties” in the hope of infecting their children with the H1N1 virus.
Talk of swine flu parties has emerged on Internet forums. The idea is that exposing a child to the H1N1 virus while it remains relatively mild will give the child immunity if the virus returns in a more virulent form later on.
The idea is an extension of chicken pox and measles parties that were once a popular way of exposing children to those diseases so that they might acquire resistance to subsequent infections.
But health officials have been quick to condemn the idea. Speaking at a conference, Dr Richard Jarvis, chairman of the British Medical Association’s public health committee, said “I have heard of reports of people throwing swine flu parties. I don’t think it is a good idea.
“I would not want it myself. It is quite a mild virus, but people still get ill and there is a risk of mortality.”
Last month, Richard Besser, the acting head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also warned against deliberately exposing people to the virus.
While it’s not clear if any swine flu parties have been held, Justine Roberts, the founder of Web site mumsnet, today told BBC Radio 4 that some people have been discussing the idea.
“We have heard of people saying ‘can we come round to your house when you get it?” she said.
“There’s definitely a prevailing view that it might be better to get it now and some people are not despairing if there is a case in their school.”
Flu epidemics often come in waves and there are fears that a more virulent form of H1N1 may strike in the fall. That happened with the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.
Researchers at George Washington University in Washington DC have studied the 1918 pandemic and have found that in areas where there were more cases during the first wave of Spanish flu, there were fewer deaths during its second wave, in the fall of that year.
The suggestion is that exposure to the first wave of the flu conferred immunity to its second wave.
But H1N1 is still very much an unknown quantity. Experts warn that little is known about the virus and that actively encouraging its spread could risk the health of those who are most vulnerable.
While the symptoms associated with swine flu are not usually life threatening among people in good health, it can be deadly for elderly people or those with other medical conditions.
The latest figures from the World Health Organization show there have now been 311 confirmed deaths around the world from the H1N1 virus first identified in Mexico this spring, and just over 70,000 infections in 113 countries.