Friday, June 26, 2009

Latest Swine Flu Europe News: German authorities warn of swine flu mutation risk

(Reuters) Germany's federal agency for infectious diseases said on Tuesday there were signs the H1N1 swine flu virus had started to mutate and warned it could spread in the coming months in a more aggressive form.

Experts were concerned about how the flu was developing in Australia and South America, said Joerg Hacker, head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

'It's possible the virus has mutated. In autumn the mutated form could spread to the northern hemisphere and back to Germany,' Hacker told a news conference in Berlin.

Latest Swine Flu Europe News: German authorities warn of swine flu mutation risk

Germany's federal agency for infectious diseases said on Tuesday there were signs the H1N1 swine flu virus had started to mutate and warned it could spread in the coming months in a more aggressive form.
Photograph by: Ramzi Haidar, AFP/Getty Images

How to Avoid Getting The H1N1 Flu Virus |

It is still flu season and with a new flu strain such as the Swine Flu epidemic makes many of us feel uneasy. There are many different methods of preventing the flu.

Things You'll Need:
  • Mask
  • Gloves
  • Cleaner such as bleach and water
  • Herbs such as Garlic and Onions
Read the rest on
How to Avoid Getting The H1N1 Flu Virus

Monday, June 15, 2009

Indian Country Today: Inuit hit hard by H1N1 swine flu

H1N1 influenza outbreaks in Canada’s predominantly Inuit territories of Nunavut and northern Manitoba could trigger the World Health Organization to declare a global pandemic.

WHO briefed reporters June 9 that reports to the agency of infections in Inuit communities in Canada showed “disproportionate numbers of serious cases occurring,” said WHO senior official Keiji Fukuda.

He said the agency is seeing “a larger number than expected of young Inuit people developing serious illnesses requiring hospitalization,” but said any speculation as to causes such as genetic, environmental or due to underlying diseases is premature.

The agencies concern followed reports that the number of H1N1 cases doubled June 9 in the aboriginal community of Nunavut, from 25 to 53. In northeast Manitoba more than half of the 26 persons hospitalized on respirators are aboriginals.

Nunavut’s chief medical officer, Dr. Isaac Sobol, downplayed WHO’s report, telling reporters June 9 he didn’t see a “disproportionate number of serious cases,” in Inuit communities.

But the next day, CBC News Canada reported that 43 new cases were confirmed in Nunavut, bringing the total to 96. Manitoba reported four new aboriginal cases among 16 new cases.

Indian Country Today: Inuit hit hard by H1N1 swine flu

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Double loss for swine flu family

The family of the first person in Europe to die after being diagnosed with swine flu has suffered a double tragedy with the death of her baby.

Jacqueline Fleming, 38, from Glasgow, died on Sunday at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

Her son Jack, who was born 11 weeks early, died a day later in a special care baby unit at the same hospital.

Ms Fleming had been suffering from underlying health problems since the birth of her son.

In a statement, her partner William McCann said it was an extremely distressing and difficult time for the family.

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Double loss for swine flu family

TVNZ - H1N1 cases in New Zealand reach 100

The number of confirmed H1N1 flu cases in New Zealand has cracked the 100 mark.

The latest cases are from Canterbury, where 13 people have been confirmed with the virus.

They are linked to one person who visited Melbourne this month.

The virus is now affecting the lives of hundreds of New Zealanders, with several schools sending students home.

Year 12 students at Auckland's Westlake Girls High School have been asked by the Ministry of Health to stay home for the week, while Burnside High School in Christchurch has more than 70 students in isolation.

Meanwhile, the Government is continuing a strategy of trying to contain the flu, in a bid to stop hospitals being overloaded with flu victims.

TVNZ - H1N1 cases in New Zealand reach 100

Reuters: Novartis won't give free H1N1 vaccines to the poor

Swiss drugs company Novartis will not give free vaccines against H1N1 flu to poor countries, though it will consider discounts, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

'If you want to make production sustainable, you have to create financial incentives,' the FT quoted Novartis Chief Executive Daniel Vasella as saying in an early edition of Monday's paper.

The director-general of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, has called for drugs companies to show solidarity with poor countries as they develop vaccines against the pandemic H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu.

Reuters: Novartis won't give free H1N1 vaccines to the poor

The Independent: Swine flu could grow far deadlier, says WHO adviser

One of the world's leading virologists warned last night that the swine flu virus shares worrying similarities with Spanish flu – which wiped out 50 million people in 1918 – and that we should be prepared for the worst.

As the pandemic continues to escalate, Professor Albert Osterhaus, an adviser to the World Health Organisation (WHO), expressed his fears that swine flu may develop into a far deadlier strain. 'In a doomsday scenario, we could have a severe pandemic, similar to the Spanish flu, and that could arise out of a mutation of the virus,' he said.

'Spanish flu also started as a relatively mild strain, comparable to the seasonal flu virus. Then, after half a year, there was a major peak and tens of millions of people died worldwide.' Both viruses seem to target largely healthy adults and children, he added.

The Independent: Swine flu could grow far deadlier, says WHO adviser

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Associated Press: UK reports its first swine flu death

A person has died of swine flu at a hospital in Scotland in the first death from the illness reported in Britain, officials said Sunday.

It also was the first death from the H5N1 strain of influenza reported outside the Americas by the World Health Organization in Geneva or the European Centers for Disease Control in Stockholm, which both keep tabs on confirmed cases of swine flu and deaths from the illness in countries around the world.

Scotland's government said the patient suffering from swine flu died at a hospital there. It said the patient was one of 10 people being treated for the influenza at the facility.

The statement did not identify the patient or the hospital. 'The patient had underlying health conditions,' the government statement said, without saying what they were.

The Associated Press: UK reports its first swine flu death

Dr. Ellie Cannon in The Daily Mail: Anxious about swine flu? If you're over 60 you can relax

London GP Dr. Ellie Cannon wrote a column on the website of the British newspaper The Daily Mail:

There is good news at last for the older patients in my surgery. If you are over 60, it appears you will be immune to developing swine flu.

That's the interesting pattern doctors and health protection agencies worldwide have noticed, even though this week the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared the outbreak a pandemic.

The virus has spread to 74 countries and the mortality rate is similar to that of 'normal' flu, with 141 deaths out of 30,000 cases. You would expect the most vulnerable to be older people - as is the case in our UK winter flu epidemics - but it is not.

It seems to be young adults who are succumbing to swine flu. 'The bulk of cases are among younger people - mainly in their 20s,' says Dr Keiji Fukuda, of the WHO.

Dr. Ellie Cannon in The Daily Mail: Anxious about swine flu? If you're over 60 you can relax

CIDRAP: Communication expert endorses WHO's delay on pandemic declaration

A well-known risk-communication expert said the World Health Organization (WHO) acted wisely in delaying its declaration of an influenza pandemic until yesterday, but he simultaneously expressed concern that the move may lead to complacency about the situation.

The WHO drew considerable criticism for putting off announcing a phase 6 pandemic alert in the face of evidence that the virus was spreading on several continents. But Peter M. Sandman, PhD, a New Jersey-based consultant and close watcher of pandemic preparedness, said the WHO's go-slow approach gave the world a chance to get used to the idea that a pandemic declaration was coming soon.

However, he also worried that declaring a pandemic of an illness that is usually mild may lead many people to think that a pandemic is not a serous concern.

Sandman observed, as have others, that the WHO has been trying to steer a course between unduly frightening people and lulling them into complacency.

Officially, yesterday's WHO announcement means that the H1N1 virus is spreading in communities in more than one region of the world. The virus first emerged in April in the United States and Mexico and has since spread to 74 countries. Its spread in places far from North America, including Australia, Chile, and the United Kingdom, had led to growing pressure on the WHO to announce that a pandemic was under way.

But at the urging of several governments, the WHO held off on taking the step for weeks out of concern that it would cause excessive alarm in a world that has learned to link the concept of a pandemic to the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which rarely infects humans but kills about 60% of those it does infect.

CIDRAP: Communication expert endorses WHO's delay on pandemic declaration

EDCD: Over 2000 infections in Europe

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control sees a rapid spread of H1N1 on the European continent.

Influenza A(H1N1)v infection
Update 13 June 2009, 17:00 hours CEST
Main developments in past 24 hours

237 new cases were reported in EU and EFTA countries;
6315 new cases were reported from non-EU and EFTA countries;
UK has reported 200 new cases;
Netherlands has reported 19 new cases of in-country transmission;
USA has reported 4638 new cases and 18 deaths during the week ending 6 June.

This report is based on official information provided by the national public health websites, or through other official communication channels. An update on the number of confirmed cases as of 13 June, 17:00 hours CEST, is presented in Table 1 and Table 2.
Disclaimer: the number of confirmed cases reported is based on laboratory test results, except for the US. Depending on the national laboratory testing policies, the actual number of cases by country may therefore be higher.

Epidemiological update

The number of EU and EFTA countries reporting cases did not change, with 26 of 31 EU and EFTA countries reporting confirmed cases. In the past 24 hours, 237 cases were confirmed in seven EU and EFTA countries (Table 1). The majority of the newly reported cases were from the UK (200), the Netherlands (16), Italy (8) and France (7). On the 13th June 2009, the Netherlands reported a total of 19 cases of in-country transmission.

Outside of the EU and EFTA countries, a total of 34,293 cases are currently reported, an increase of 6,315 cases (23%) over the previous situation report dated 12 June 2009 (Table 2). Mexico reported one more death, bringing their total to 109.

USA had 4638 cases and 18 deaths reported for the week ending 6 June. This represents an increase in their weekly reports of 46.6% over the 3164 cases reported for the previous week (ending 30 May). This brings the current total of influenza A(H1N1)v cases in the USA to 17855, with 45 deaths in all.

Other countries with large increases in their reported cases were Chile (641 new cases), Canada (537 new cases), Australia (134 new cases) and Argentina (127 new cases).

The complete EDCD Situation Report as PDF file

Friday, June 12, 2009

Reuters: Novartis eyes rapid H1N1 vaccine production

Novartis AG has produced a first batch of a vaccine to fight the H1N1 flu outbreak, will start clinical trials in July and expects to be able to ramp up manufacture rapidly.

The first results achieved with H1N1 wild type strain showed that it was quicker to make the vaccine through cell-based production compared to egg-based manufacturing, the Swiss drugmaker said in a statement Friday.

'Novartis has successfully completed the production of the first batch of influenza A(H1N1) vaccine, weeks ahead of expectations,' it said, adding it expects to get a license in the autumn.

'Cell-based manufacturing technology allows vaccine production to be initiated once a pandemic virus strain is identified without the need to adapt the virus strain to grow in eggs, as with traditional vaccine technologies,' the group said.

'This advance has cut weeks off the time required to begin vaccine production,' Novartis said."

Reuters: Novartis eyes rapid H1N1 vaccine production

WHO | World now at the start of 2009 influenza pandemic

Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

In late April, WHO announced the emergence of a novel influenza A virus.

This particular H1N1 strain has not circulated previously in humans. The virus is entirely new.

The virus is contagious, spreading easily from one person to another, and from one country to another. As of today, nearly 30,000 confirmed cases have been reported in 74 countries.

This is only part of the picture. With few exceptions, countries with large numbers of cases are those with good surveillance and testing procedures in place.

Spread in several countries can no longer be traced to clearly-defined chains of human-to-human transmission. Further spread is considered inevitable.

I have conferred with leading influenza experts, virologists, and public health officials. In line with procedures set out in the International Health Regulations, I have sought guidance and advice from an Emergency Committee established for this purpose.

On the basis of available evidence, and these expert assessments of the evidence, the scientific criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met.

I have therefore decided to raise the level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 5 to phase 6.

The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic."

WHO | World now at the start of 2009 influenza pandemic

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The world is in a swine flu pandemic, WHO tells some members World Health Organization has privately told several countries that the global pandemic level will be raised to Phase 6 before the end of Thursday, as experts held an emergency meeting in Geneva to discuss the spread of the virus.

Health ministries in Thailand and Indonesia said an email alert from WHO advised them that a pandemic would be declared by midnight local time.

WHO director general Margaret Chan called an emergency conference call with leading flu experts to discuss the outbreak of the virus, which has spread to 74 countries.

Chan will hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. ET, when she is expected to make the official announcement that a pandemic has been declared.

Moving to Phase 6 — the highest level — means a pandemic has been confirmed and the H1N1 virus is spreading from person to person in a sustained manner outside North America, where the outbreak began in April.

The world is in a swine flu pandemic, WHO tells some members

WHO press conference 1800 hrs (GMT+1)

When: 18.00 hrs Geneva time, Thursday 11 June 2009

Where: Executive Board room, WHO headquarters

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) will hold a press conference at 18:00 hrs Geneva time, Thursday, 11 June 2009 on influenza A(H1N1) in the Executive Board room at the WHO headquarters.

Interpretation in French and Spanish will be provided.

Link to the audio file

Live webcast of the press conference

Full coverage of influenza A(H1N1)

The Canadian Press: Argentina's medical services say they are being swamped
Argentines worried they may have swine flu have overwhelmed some emergency medical services at the onset of the South American winter flu season, health officials said Wednesday.

The Health Ministry said Argentina's confirmed caseload has grown to 281, with an additional 1,032 possible cases being studied in labs. More than two-thirds of those sickened were young people, and 29 schools in Buenos Aires and the surrounding area have been closed for two weeks after children tested positive.

Sergio Alejandre, hospitals director for Buenos Aires province, said Wednesday that public hospitals are beefing up because with the arrival of the Southern Hemisphere winter, 'consultations begin to increase ... for respiratory problems, adult flu and bronchitis in children.'

Argentina's medical services say they are being swamped

WHO concludes emergency meeting; pandemic declaration expected

GENEVA (BNO NEWS) -- The World Health Organization concluded an emergency meeting on Thursday afternoon and is expected to declare a full scale swine flu pandemic within hours, BNO News has learned.

'The emergency meeting has finished,' Sarah Russell, who is a spokeswoman for the health organization, told BNO News. Russell, who was not able to provide details on the outcome of the meeting, said that Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan would be holding a press conference at 12 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. Geneva time). 'The Director-General has decided to give a press conference at six so she can explain what is going on to everybody then,' she said. The briefing will be held in the Executive Board room of the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Russell said the council discussed a number of topics, including the pandemic alert scale. It is widely expected that the organization will now raise the pandemic alert level from 5 to 6, declaring the H1N1 flu virus, better known as swine flu, as a global pandemic. The disease has seen a sustained worldwide spread in the past month although most of the cases have been mild. According to the latest update, there have been 27,737 confirmed cases of swine flu, 141 of them resulting in fatalities.

Asked what a level 6 would mean, Russel said: 'It means that an influenza pandemic is underway and a pandemic means that a virus which is new to humans has appeared, that its spreading, and that it is causing disease in many parts of the world.'

The pandemic alert scale has seen a lot of criticism, especially since the outbreak of the H1N1 virus, as it does not reflect the severity of the outbreak. Russel said she was not aware of any plans to possibly change the criteria for the scale.

UPDATE: Moments after the WHO concluded their emergency meeting, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would also hold a press conference at 12.45 p.m. EDT regarding H1N1. It is the first such press conference since May 28, another indication the WHO has decided to raise the alert level to six.

Swine flu outbreak closes Japanese school in Germany

The Japanese school in Dusseldorf has been closed following an outbreak of swine flu which has infected at least 30 pupils, officials in the west German city said Thursday.

Nearly all the cases involved children aged 12, said Heiko Schneitler, head of the Dusseldorf Health Office. Most of the cases were not severe, but one child required hospital treatment, he said.

All the affected students have been placed in quarantine at home with their families, Schneitler said, adding the number of infections was expected to rise because other children had complained of flu symptoms.

Some 30 teachers and 560 students are at the school, which will remain closed until the end of next week, school officials said.

The outbreak raised to more than 100 the number of swine flu cases in Germany, Europe's most populous nation.

Swine flu outbreak closes Japanese school in Germany

Hong Kong Closes Schools as WHO Considers Declaring Pandemic

Hong Kong has closed schools Thursday after the discovery of the city's first cluster of swine flu infections. This comes as the World Health Organization holds an emergency meeting in Geneva to discuss the latest development on the spread of the H1N1 virus.

The cluster of infections was found in a secondary school, where at least 12 pupils fell ill with the H1N1 swine flu virus.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang cut short his trip in mainland China and returned to the territory to take charge of the city's response to the outbreak. On Thursday, Tsang ordered all nurseries, kindergartens, primary and special schools to close for 14 days, in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

Hong Kong Closes Schools as WHO Considers Declaring Pandemic

Reuters: WHO poised to declare first flu pandemic since 1968

The World Health Organisation (WHO) was poised on Thursday (11th june) to declare that the new H1N1 virus has caused the first influenza pandemic in more than 40 years, health sources said on Thursday.

The move will trigger heightened health measures in the WHO's 193 member states as authorities brace for the worldwide spread of the virus that has so far caused mainly mild illness.

Flu experts advising WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, who were due to convene at 1000 GMT, were expected to recommend moving to the top phase 6 on the WHO's six-point scale, the sources said.

That would reflect the fact that the disease was spreading geographically, but not necessarily indicate how virulent it is.

Reuters: WHO poised to declare first flu pandemic since 1968

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 US Navy: 24 Iwo Jima sailors and Marines hit by H1N1 virus

The US Navy has confirmed that 24 sailors and Marines associated with the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima have been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus.

The first three cases were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control on May 27, the day before the ship left New York after visiting the city for Fleet Week.

Those victims were from other units but were temporarily attached to the ship. They were treated at the Veterans Affairs hospital in New York and have since returned to their home units, said Cmdr. Cappy Surrette, a Navy spokesman.

An additional 21 sailors and Marines, all ship’s company, then came down with the virus while on board. They have received treatment and returned to work, he said. US Navy: 24 Iwo Jima sailors and Marines hit by H1N1 virus

Worldwide Pandemic Flu Declaration 'Close'

ENS logo

GENEVA, Switzerland (ENS) - The World Health Organization is 'getting close' to declaring a worldwide pandemic of the novel H1N1 influenza virus, a senior official said today.

The virus, also called human swine flu, has spread to 73 countries that have reported 26,563 laboratory confirmed cases of the illness, with 140 deaths, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for health, security and environment, told reporters on a teleconference today.

'We are getting close to declaring a pandemic. But we are trying to get as much information out to countries as we can that would relieve anxiety,' Dr. Fukuda said. 'Right now we consider the situation to be relatively moderate.'

Worldwide Pandemic Flu Declaration 'Close'

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WHO | Influenza A(H1N1) - update 43

WHO: As of 06:00 GMT, 3 June 2009, 66 countries have officially reported 19,273 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection, including 117 deaths.

The breakdown of the number of laboratory-confirmed cases by country is given in the table and map.

Map of the spread of Influenza A(H1N1): number of laboratory confirmed cases and deaths
As of 06:00 GMT, 3 June 2009

WHO | Influenza A(H1N1) - update 43, table

New York Times: WHO Says It Is Closer to Declaring Flu Pandemic

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that it was moving closer to declaring swine flu a worldwide pandemic.

The disease has reached 64 countries, and there have been dozens or hundreds of cases in several nations outside North America, including Britain, Spain, Japan, Chile and Australia.

The Southern Hemisphere countries are now of chief interest because their winter flu season is just beginning and another strain of the H1N1 virus, widespread last winter, was resistant to the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

To raise the flu alert to its highest level, Level 6, the W.H.O. would need to find evidence of widespread “community transmission” — meaning beyond travelers, schools and immediate contacts — on two continents. Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the agency’s chief of flu, said that finding had not been made.

New York Times: WHO Says It Is Closer to Declaring Flu Pandemic