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WHO Recommends Antivirals For Patients With Symptoms Of Both H1N1, Pneumonia

The WHO concluded a three-day meeting on H1N1 (swine flu) in Washington, D.C., on Friday, where health experts issued recommendations that patients with symptoms of H1N1 and pneumonia be treated quickly with antivirals, even before the results of H1N1 tests are complete, the San Francisco Chronicle blog, “ChronRX” reports (Allday, 10/16).

“Experts stress that most people who get the H1N1 virus either never get sick or recover easily. But some young adults, possibly especially women, are falling seriously ill at an unexpectedly rapid pace and are showing up in intensive care units and dying in unusually high numbers, they say,” the Washington Post reports. “Although why a minority of patients become so sick remains a mystery, new research indicates that H1N1 is different from typical seasonal flu viruses in crucial ways — most notably in its ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and cause viral pneumonia” (Stein, 10/17).

H1N1 Vaccines Shortages In U.S., Mexico

Also on Friday, the CDC announced the number of H1N1 vaccine doses to arrive in the U.S. by the end of October would be about 10 million short – “about 25% fewer than expected” – due to slower than anticipated vaccine production, the Los Angeles Times reports. “Despite the current low production, however, there are no plans to use adjuvants — chemicals added to increase the immune response to the antigen — to extend the supply of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine, said Dr. Jesse Goodman of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration” (Maugh/Ellingwood, 10/17).

“Yields for vaccine are lower than would be hoped,” Anne Schuchat, of the CDC, said during a telephone press conference, Reuters reports” (Fox, 10/16). According to the Associated Press, “[W]hat CDC calls the 2009 H1N1 flu is causing widespread disease in 41 states, and about 6 percent of all doctor visits are for flu-like illness — levels not normally seen until much later in the fall” (Neergaard, 10/17).

The Los Angeles Times reports that Mexico is also facing H1N1 vaccine shortages, where “[o]fficials had promised 30 million doses, but now say they don’t expect the first batch of 5 million to 8 million doses until late December,” due to “the huge demand for vaccines around the world.” Even so, the newspaper notes, “reaction to the H1N1 pandemic in Mexico has been more muted than it was in the spring, when the country was the first to be hit hard by the outbreak.”

“Nearly 20,000 new cases of swine flu infection have been confirmed in that country since early September, with at least 61 fatalities, according to health authorities there. That contrasts with the nearly 42,000 cases and 260 deaths reported since the outbreak began in the spring — though authorities cautioned that the winter flu season has just begun,” the newspaper writes. “This time, health officials are stressing good hygiene and prompt medical treatment for flu-type symptoms, but say there is no need for widespread precautionary closures” (10/17).

In related news, Rwanda could receive the country’s first batches of H1N1 vaccine from the WHO as early as next month, according to the Minister of Health, Richard Sezibera, New Times/allAfrica.com reports (Nambi, 10/17).

The Hill Examines Congressional Positions On H1N1 Vaccine

Meanwhile, the Hill examines discussion over whether Americans should receive the H1N1 vaccine. “In the Senate, the topic has accomplished the rare feat of uniting Democrats and Republicans — members of both parties are promoting vaccinations regardless of the rhetoric,” the newspaper writes (Rushing, 10/18).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.