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Masks, hand sanitizer help halt flu spread

Flu • • InfectionsJan 27 10

Want to be prepared for a flu pandemic? You may want to stock up on face masks and hand sanitizer, according to a new study.

College students living in residency halls who wore the masks for a few hours a day and regularly used alcohol-based hand sanitizer cut their risk of coming down with flu-like illness by up to half, Dr. Allison E. Aiello of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and her colleagues found.

“We do think it probably would generalize to other settings in which you have people living in close quarters and eating in shared facilities”—for example military barracks or nursing homes, Aiello told Reuters Health in an interview. “We can probably even bring this to the household setting.”

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Uzbekistan says closed Kazakh border due to flu

Flu • • Public HealthNov 25 09

Uzbekistan said on Wednesday it had closed the border with Central Asian neighbour Kazakhstan as part of a seasonal anti-flu quarantine.

On Monday, Kazakhstan said Uzbekistan shut the border without any explanations and Kazakh media, as well as residents of the Uzbek capital Tashkent, linked the move to fears about an outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus.

On Wednesday, the Uzbek government said in a statement carried by official media that it had enacted quarantine restrictions on the border “due to the spread of seasonal flu.”

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Worst case H1N1 may cut UK economy by 4.3 percent

Flu • • Public HealthNov 20 09

- A severe H1N1 flu pandemic could cost the UK economy 72 billion pounds ($121 billion), British scientists said on Friday, but advised against closing schools even if the current mild pandemic takes a turn for the worse.

Researchers from the London School of Economics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Edinburgh University said a “high fatality” pandemic would cut gross domestic product by 3.3 to 4.3 percent, or 55.5 billion to 72.3 billion pounds.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, said several factors could exacerbate that impact—the extra strain on an economy already in recession, the closure of schools and the absence of large numbers of people from work.

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Canada sees spike in H1N1 flu-related deaths

Flu • • Public HealthNov 18 09

The H1N1 flu killed more people in Canada during the past week than in any other week this year, but health officials said on Tuesday the nation’s vaccination program was going so well that it may reach its peak earlier than expected.

Thirty-seven people died of the pandemic flu Nov. 12-17, bringing Canada’s death toll from H1N1 to 198, out of a population of 34 million. Comparable figures from other weeks were not available.

“Rather than seeing thousands of deaths we’ve been fortunate to have people doing what they need to do (to avoid the flu),” Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s chief public health officer, told reporters in Ottawa. “I think we’re in a relatively good position, but a pandemic is always full of surprises.”

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Flow of H1N1 vaccines picking up in U.S., CDC says

Flu • • Public HealthNov 12 09

The flow of swine flu vaccines to the U.S. market is picking up, health and corporate officials said on Tuesday, and now the challenge will be to get the drugs to people.

Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 41.1 million doses of H1N1 vaccines are either available or have been delivered but that state and local health officials still face logistical problems.

“I can’t tell you how many times in our outreach to our counterparts that we got messages back saying ‘It’s Friday, we are furloughed’ or ‘We are out today’,” Schuchat told a Senate health subcommittee hearing.

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Less educated people more vulnerable to H1N1

FluNov 11 09

Washington, Nov 11 : People with less education could be more vulnerable to contracting H1N1 infection and the vaccine might be less effective in them compared to those who earned a high school diploma, according to a new study.

In the study, researchers focused on CMV, a latent virus in the herpes family. Infection is common but the majority of people aren’t symptomatic because the immune system keeps the virus under control.

But people of lower income and education lose immune control more easily, probably due to stress.

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Animals need to be closely watched for flu

FluNov 06 09

Some pigs, turkeys and household pets have become infected with the H1N1 flu, but the pandemic virus does not yet appear to be spreading quickly among animals, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said it was not clear how the isolated animals had contracted the flu virus that is spreading quickly among humans in the northern hemisphere, particularly in Eastern Europe.

A novel flu virus—looking like a mix of human and swine genes—has been detected in some mink farms in Denmark, and seems to have infected only the animals and not the farm workers in proximity to them.

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WHO urges pregnant women to get swine flu jab now

FluNov 03 09

Pregnant women and other people at high risk should be vaccinated against the H1N1 swine flu virus as the cold weather begins to bite in the northern hemisphere, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

It voiced concern that some vulnerable people are shying away from the pandemic vaccine, which the WHO stressed had not caused any unusual side effects in hundreds of thousands of people to have received it worldwide so far.

“Certainly the fact that the vaccine isn’t being used by those who would have access to it and who would be in priority risk groups is of concern, yes,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told a news briefing.

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Economic impact of H1N1 less in crisis: German study

Flu • • Public HealthOct 27 09

The H1N1 swine flu virus will have less impact on Germany’s economy than previously expected, a study by Allianz insurers and the RWI economic research institute showed on Tuesday.

The study said swine flu would cost Europe’s biggest economy between 10 billion euros and 40 billion euros, equivalent to 0.4 and 1.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) respectively, depending on the gravity of the global flu pandemic.

The transport, hospitality and culture sectors would suffer most, said the study.

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Iraq to shut thousands of schools over H1N1 flu

Flu • • Public HealthOct 20 09

Iraq will temporarily shut down thousands of schools in two provinces and some in Baghdad after discovering 36 new cases of the H1N1 flu virus, Iraqi officials said on Tuesday.

Iraq’s health ministry has discovered the flu in 22 secondary school girls and nine of their relatives in Wasit province, four students in Baghdad and a man in Dhi Kar province, General Director of Public Health Ihsan Jaafar said.

Provincial authorities in both provinces said they would briefly shut schools to prevent the virus’ spread. The officials said around 1,200 Wasit schools would close for a week and some 1,500 schools in Dhi Kar for 10 days from Wednesday.

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Swine flu vaccines delayed, US CDC says

Flu • • Public HealthOct 19 09

Delivery of some swine flu vaccines has been delayed because companies cannot make as much as they had hoped, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

The CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat said while 40 million doses had been anticipated for the end of October, only about 28 to 30 million doses would be available.

“Yields for vaccine are lower than would be hoped,” Schuchat said in a telephone briefing.

She also said deaths from H1N1 swine flu were above the epidemic threshold in some U.S. cities and states. H1N1 flu activity was widespread in 41 states, she said.

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U-M researchers find those with severe H1N1 at risk for pulmonary emboli

Flu • • Respiratory ProblemsOct 14 09

University of Michigan researchers have found that patients with severe cases of the H1N1 virus are at risk for developing severe complications, including pulmonary emboli, according to a study published today in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

A pulmonary embolism occurs when one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked. The condition can be life-threatening. However, if treated aggressively, blood thinners can reduce the risk of death.
“The high incidence of pulmonary embolism is important. Radiologists have to be aware to look closely for the risks of pulmonary embolism in severely sick patients,” said Prachi P. Agarwal, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at the U-M Medical School and lead author of the study.

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Heart disease link to prenatal flu exposure

Flu • • HeartOct 02 09

Children of women infected with influenza during pregnancy have a substantially higher risk of heart disease late in life, according to a study published on Wednesday.

The findings underscore the danger facing pregnant women from the H1N1 swine flu virus, or any other strain of flu, and also demonstrate that what happens in the womb can affect a person decades later.

Caleb Finch of the University of Southern California and colleagues studied records from the 1918 flu pandemic and found that boys whose mothers were infected during the second or third trimester of pregnancy with them had a 23 percent greater chance of having heart disease after age 60 than boys whose mothers were not infected.

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UAB Experts on H1N1 Influenza

FluSep 21 09

Richard Whitley, M.D.
Whitley, UAB’s Director of Pediatric Infectious Disease, has been tapped by U.S. President Barack Obama to serve on the H1N1 influenza working group of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). A professor of pediatrics, microbiology and neurosurgery, Whitley serves as vice-chair of the Department of Pediatrics and as co-director of UAB’s Center for Emerging Infections and Emergency Preparedness. Whitley is also president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Expertise: Flu-infection projections, government preparedness, drug stockpiling, common-sense prevention and self-care tips for the public.

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Drug-resistant influenza becoming a trickier target

FluSep 11 09

Viruses resistant to antiviral medications are a growing problem, according to a study in The Netherlands.

“After monitoring antiviral resistance patterns during three subsequent influenza seasons in the Netherlands, we described the unpredictable nature of the emergence of antiviral resistance patterns.” Dr. Marcel Jonges told Reuters Health, referring to his team’s report in the September issue of Antiviral Research.

“This means,” he continued, “that effective treatment or prophylaxis of influenza is becoming more and more complicated, since hospitals and nursing homes cannot base appropriate antiviral therapy on national influenza surveillance drug susceptibility data.”

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