WHO Revises Clinical H1N1 Guidelines, Sends Antivirals To Some Hard-Hit Nations

On Thursday, the WHO issued revised guidance for the clinical management of H1N1 (swine) flu, the Associated Press reports. According to the AP, the WHO “says doctors shouldn’t wait for lab confirmation before giving anti-viral drugs to pregnant women and other at-risk groups with suspected swine flu” (11/12).

Reuters writes, “Pregnant women, children under the age of 2 and people with respiratory problems and other diseases are at highest risk of the extreme effects of swine flu, which can take hold as soon as one week after infection by the highly contagious virus.”  WHO medical officer Nikki Shindo said, “We have updated our clinical guidance to emphasise that seeking early medical attention can save lives. …The medicine needs to be administered before the virus destroys the lungs.” (MacInnis, 11/12).

“I want to stress that people who are not from the at-risk groups … need not take antivirals. We are not recommending taking antivirals if otherwise healthy people are experiencing only mild illness, or as a preventive measure,” said Shindo, according to the Agence France-Presse. Patients not in high-risk groups who experience symptoms like breathing difficulties and high fever for more than three days, or signs of pneumonia, should receive immediate treatment, according to the WHO (Capella, 11/12).

According to the New York Times, WHO has sent antiviral drugs “to Ukraine, Afghanistan and other countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where hospitals report that they are being overwhelmed by patients with swine flu” (Belluck, 11/12).

Reuters reports that “[m]any hospitals and clinics, especially in poorer countries, have been overwhelmed with patients seeking care for H1N1 as the northern hemisphere has entered its winter flu season. … The WHO shipped antiviral drugs to 72 countries in May as the pandemic began to gain speed, and … will soon send more supplies to Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan” (11/12).

CDC Releases Revised H1N1 Estimates

As anticipated, CDC released revised H1N1 estimates on Thursday indicating that 3,900 people in the U.S. have died from the virus, including 540 children, USA Today reports (Sternberg, 11/12).   

The Washington Post writes, “[t]he new estimates, drawn from detailed surveillance and record-checking in 10 states, sketch the most detailed picture by far of the national toll from the new flu strain that emerged in California and Mexico in April.” An estimated 98,000 people have been hospitalized, “with 36,000 of them age 17 and younger. The vast majority of deaths – about 2,920 – have been in people age 18 to 64” (Brown, 11/13).

According to CNN, the total number of Americans infected with the virus currently stands at 22 million (11/12).

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