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New CDC guidelines stress quick treatment for H1N1

FluSep 09 09

Patients who have flu-like symptoms and are having trouble breathing should get quick treatment with the antiviral drugs Tamiflu or Relenza, even before getting a flu test, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

And doctors should consider setting up a system so that patients most likely to become severely ill from flu have a prescription on hand so they can just call up if needed to get the go-ahead to take the drugs if they develop symptoms, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

“Treatment should not wait for laboratory confirmation of influenza because laboratory testing can delay treatment and because a negative rapid test for influenza does not rule out influenza,” the CDC says in updated guidelines, available at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/recommendations.htm.

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WHO chief urges swine flu vigilance

FluAug 17 09

The world must remain on its guard against H1N1 influenza, which has been mild so far but could become more serious as the northern hemisphere heads into winter, the head of the World Health Organization said on Sunday.

Margaret Chan, on a visit to Tanzania, noted that most people infected with swine flu had suffered only mild symptoms but it affected certain groups such as pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions much more severely.

“Looking ahead in the weeks and months ahead, especially for countries in the northern hemisphere, when they will be going into the winter, we need to maintain our vigilance and see how the disease will evolve,” Chan told reporters.

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WHO keeps 2 billion estimate of likely H1N1 cases

Flu • • Public HealthAug 05 09

The World Health Organisation stuck on Tuesday to its statement that about two billion people could catch H1N1 influenza by the time the flu pandemic ends.

But the estimate comes with a big health warning: no one knows how many people so far have caught the new strain, known as swine flu, and the final number will never be known as many cases are so mild they may go unnoticed.

“By the end of a pandemic, anywhere between 15-45 percent of a population will have been infected by the new pandemic virus,” WHO spokeswoman Aphaluck Bhatiasevi said in a statement.

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Summer camp flu outbreaks presage fall surge: CDC

Flu • • Public HealthJul 31 09

Outbreaks of the H1N1 flu among children attending U.S. summer camps presage a surge in cases this fall as students return to school, an official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Wednesday.

“This is just a harbinger of what we will see in the fall,” Dr. Richard Besser, who led the U.S. response to the virus outbreak last spring, told a meeting of public health officials.

Besser, who was the CDC’s acting director for the first half of this year, later told Reuters that the number of outbreaks in summer camps was in the hundreds.

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Pigs at risk from people as new flu spreads

FluJul 10 09

There is a growing risk that pigs will catch the new H1N1 flu strain—commonly known as swine flu—from humans, German researchers said on Thursday.

Widespread transmission from people to pigs could mix up virus strains further, leading to unpredictable changes in the disease.

There have already been a handful of suspected cases of humans passing the current pandemic H1N1 virus to swine. The latest German research confirms it is infectious to pigs and can spread rapidly.

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Companies urged to plan for H1N1 flu

Flu • • Public HealthJun 15 09

Many multinational companies do not have workable plans in place for when a pandemic hits, including the possibility that H1N1 flu may change into a much more dangerous virus, health experts warned on Friday.

Dr. Myles Druckman, disease outbreak expert at International SOS, also said working out how to respond to potential outbreaks that may hit offices of a multinational company in some locations but not others was something firms needed to contend with.

“A gap for many is how can companies develop a more proportional response,” said Druckman, whose organisation has helped more than 100 Fortune 500 companies develop pandemic plans.

“For the most part outbreaks are going to be a local phenomenon. That is going to be the challenge going forward.”

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Nations must remain on guard against H1N1 flu-WHO

Flu • • Public HealthJun 12 09

Countries where the H1N1 virus appears to have peaked need to remain vigilant and prepare for a second wave of infections because the flu is so unpredictable, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said on Thursday.

“When you are over with the first wave, start preparing for the future,” Chan told reporters after the World Health Organisation raised its pandemic alert to phase 6 to indicate a flu pandemic is underway.

Officials said the move reflected the geographic spread of the virus but did not indicate the severity of the influenza (A) H1N1 pandemic. She said the WHO’s global assessment was that the pandemic was moderate.

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Chinese researchers find way to make pig stem cells

Flu • • Public HealthJun 04 09

Researchers have found a way to transform ordinary cells from pigs into powerful stem cells in a move that may have implications for human health.

With these stem cells, they hope to modify porcine genes that are related to the immune system so that pigs’ organs may some day be used for people in need of transplants.

In an article published in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, the researchers from China described how they managed to re-programme ordinary cells taken from the ear and bone marrow of a 10-week-old pig using a virus.

“The cells changed and developed in the laboratory into colonies of embryonic-like stem cells,” wrote the researchers, led by Xiao Lei, who heads the stem cell lab at the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

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Bird flu viruses need warm nose to set up shop

FluJun 04 09

Influenza viruses that normally infect birds are adapted to proliferate most efficiently at temperatures higher than those encountered in the upper airways of humans, according to a new report.

“I think this study helps explain two things,” Dr. Raymond J. Pickles told Reuters Health. It could be the reason why people need to be exposed to large amounts of bird virus to get infected “and, second, why these infected individuals do not show the classic cough, sneezing, and transmissibility of seasonal flu’s.”

Pickles, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues developed a model of the human airway to investigate the influence of temperature on human and bird influenza virus replication and spread.

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U.S. House Democrat doubtful of more flu money now

FluJun 04 09

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Wednesday said President Barack Obama may not get the extra $2 billion he requested to combat the H1N1 flu strain that has infected thousands of Americans.

A pending war funding bill that has already passed the House of Representatives included $2 billion while the Senate version had $1.5 billion.

Lawmakers are trying to resolve their differences but Hoyer was skeptical that more flu funds would be added for now.

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H1N1 flu infects 13,000 in 46 countries: WHO

Flu • • InfectionsMay 26 09

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that nearly 13,000 people have been confirmed to have infection of the new H1N1 flu strain but the number of countries affected is stable at 46.

In its latest tally, which tends to lag behind national reports, but is considered more accurate, the United Nations agency said its labs have confirmed 12,954 infections with the newly discovered strain that has killed 92 people.

Mexico has been most heavily affected by the flu outbreak, which has caused 80 deaths there. The other fatalities have been in the United States, where 10 people have died, and Costa Rica and Canada, which have reported one death each.

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Eighteen U.S. soldiers in Kuwait have H1N1 flu

Flu • • Public HealthMay 25 09

Eighteen U.S. soldiers in Kuwait have H1N1 flu, the first cases in the Gulf Arab oil-exporting region, a government official said on Sunday.

“(The soldiers) were confirmed with the virus upon their arrival from their country to the military base (in Kuwait),” Ibrahim al-Abdulhadi told Reuters.

Kuwait is a logistics base for the U.S. army for neighboring Iraq, where the U.S. military said there were no known cases yet of H1N1.

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Pandemic flu to dominate WHO assembly

FluMay 14 09

H1N1 flu will dominate the World Health Organisation’s annual assembly of 193 countries next week, eclipsing other issues like tuberculosis and food safety.

The emergence and spread of the new virus caused WHO Director-General Margaret Chan to declare that a global pandemic is imminent, and public health officials are watching it closely in case it mutates and causes severe symptoms as it spreads.

The annual World Health Assembly in Geneva was due to run from May 18-27 but is now likely to last five days so health ministers can get home to deal with the virus.

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US reports 642 cases of new H1N1 flu

Flu • • Public HealthMay 07 09

The United States now has 642 cases of the new H1N1 flu, with two deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

CDC officials have said they expect the new swine flu to spread to all 50 states, to cause severe disease and some deaths, although most cases have been mild.

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China to release Canadian students from quarantine

Flu • • Public HealthMay 07 09

China has decided to lift its flu quarantine on a group of Canadian students but the Canadian government said on Wednesday it would demand an explanation of why they had been confined.

The University of Montreal students had shown no flu symptoms but were nonetheless quarantined in the northeast Chinese city of Changchun after they arrived by plane last Saturday.

Canadian foreign affairs spokesman Alain Cacchione said he had just been informed the students would be released on Thursday morning. Canadian officials said there were 28 students in the group, 22 of them Canadian.

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