Avian Flu On Steroids

Ok, ok, I am trying to be a little less of an alarmist lately, and there have been a lot of positive developments.  For example, it is being reported that there will be enough of the H1N1 vaccine for everyone and that it will be available earlier than expected.  However, and this is the thing that keeps bugging me:  The chief infectious disease pathologist at the CDC, Dr. Sherif Zaki, said the new virus had burrowed into the lungs of the 90 or so people he examined after they died, and they had huge amounts of the virus in their blood.

This in turn caused what is known as acute respiratory distress syndrome — an often fatal development that leaves patients gasping for breath.

“This is almost exactly what we see with avian flu,” Zaki said. “This looks like avian flu on steroids.”

Zaki said 90 percent of the fatalities he looked at had some condition that would predispose them to serious disease. They had a median age of 38 and one victim was a two-month-old infant who died within a day of getting sick.Nearly half — 46 percent — were obese, many had fatty liver disease, 27 percent had heart disease and 22 percent had asthma, he said.

So, in the vein on not being an alarmist, this guy only examined 90 people.  And this still has not surpassed the 30,000 + deaths in the U.S. from seasonal flu.  And no one really knows what will ultimately happen with the life of this H1N1 virus.

Swine Flu Anxiety

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Would Health Workers Reject the Swine Flu Vaccine?

According to a study that polled over 2000 Hong Kong health workers, about half would refuse the swine flu vaccine.  Those who would pass on the vaccine say they are concerned about potential side effects.  So far, the effects have been mild, such as soreness at the injection site.

It is unlikely any rare side effects will pop up until the vaccine is given to millions. That might include things like Guillain-Barre syndrome, a temporary paralyzing disorder, which was seen after the 1976 swine flu vaccination campaign, and happens fewer than once every 1 million vaccinations.

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong surveyed doctors and nurses in public hospitals this year from January to May, asking them if they would get a pandemic vaccine based either on bird flu or swine flu. About 35 percent of health workers were willing to get a bird flu vaccine, versus 48 percent for swine flu.

Experts were surprised so few of Hong Kong’s health workers were willing to be vaccinated, since the city was hit hard during the 2003 outbreak of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Paul Chan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, one of the study authors, thought the results would be similar elsewhere. Fewer than 60 percent of health workers in most countries get vaccinated against regular flu, thought to be a reliable indicator of whether they might get a swine flu shot. In the U.S., about 35 percent of health workers get a regular flu shot, while in Britain, only about 17 percent do.

Annas said health workers were ultimately like everyone else when it comes to getting vaccines. “Like the lay population, they assume they won’t need the shot because they don’t think they will get the flu.”

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It’s Coming….Get Scared!

From CNN:

The H1N1 flu virus could cause up to 90,000 U.S. deaths, mainly among children and young adults, if it resurges this fall as expected, according to a report released Monday by a presidential advisory panel.

The report says 30,000 to 90,000 deaths are projected as part of a “plausible scenario” involving large outbreaks at schools, inadequate antiviral supplies and the virus peaking before vaccinations have time to be effective.

Up to 40,000 U.S. deaths are linked to seasonal flu each year, with most of the fatalities occurring among people over 65. With seasonal flu and H1N1, this fall is expected to bring more influenza deaths and place “enormous stress” on intensive care units nationwide, which normally operate near capacity, the report says.

An H1N1 resurgence may happen as early as September, at the beginning of the school year, and infections may peak in mid-October, according to the report. However, the H1N1 vaccine isn’t expected to be available until mid-October, and even then it will take several weeks for vaccinated individuals to develop immunity, the report says.

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Will the Swine Flu Vaccine Give You Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

From The Telegraph:

American officials rushed out a vaccine in 1976 following an outbreak of swine flu in military barracks. Around 40 million people received the vaccine but doctors reported an increase Guillain-Barre and 25 people had died before the immunisation programme was stopped…

“Guillain-Barre syndrome has long been identified as a potential adverse event that would require enhanced surveillance following the introduction of a pandemic vaccine but there is no evidence to suggest there is an increased risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome from this vaccine.”

He said there was also no increased risk of the syndrome associated with the seasonal flu vaccine.

“Establishing enhanced surveillance on Guillain-Barre syndrome has always been part of our pandemic plan because there is an increased risk of this disease after a flu-like illness…

However critics have said the fact doctors are being told to report cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome is evidence that the authorities are concerned.

Jackie Fletcher of the campaign group, Jabs, added: “What we’ve got is a massive guinea-pig trial.”

Guillain-Barre Syndrome attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis and death.  More information can be found here.

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Briefings.

It was reported today that 3 more Massachusetts residents died as a result of the swine flu; a 53 year old, a 20 year old and a 21 year old.  The Boston Globe has said they all had “serious underlying health conditions,” but the deaths of such young adults have me alarmed.

“The virus has proven especially dangerous to people already coping with respiratory ailments such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and conditions that impair the body’s ability to fight invading germs. And as the deaths of the 20- and 21-year-olds demonstrate, the germ known by the scientific name H1N1 has also proven to be a particular threat to young adults, as well as children.

A federal advisory panel yesterday recommended that children and young adults be among the groups that are at the top of the list to receive a vaccine against swine flu, which could be available as early as October.”

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