Study: New flu resembles feared 1918 virus

h1n1
People wearing disposable masks attend a campaign promoting the use of face masks to prevent infection by the H1N1 flu virus, at a hospital in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, July 13, 2009. (REUTERS)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The new H1N1 influenza virus bears a disturbing resemblance to the virus strain that caused the 1918 flu pandemic, with a greater ability to infect the lungs than common seasonal flu viruses, researchers reported on Monday.

Tests in several animals confirmed other studies that have shown the new swine flu strain can spread beyond the upper respiratory tract to go deep into the lungs — making it more likely to cause pneumonia, the international team said.

In addition, they found that people who survived the 1918 pandemic seem to have extra immune protection against the virus, again confirming the work of other researchers.

“When we conducted the experiments in ferrets and monkeys, the seasonal virus did not replicate in the lungs,” said Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, who led the study.

The H1N1 virus replicates significantly better in the lungs.”

Read moreStudy: New flu resembles feared 1918 virus

New Zealand orders 300,000 doses of untested and unapproved swine flu vaccine

Wellington – New Zealand has ordered a stock of untested and unapproved swine flu vaccine for health workers, police and other emergency staff but it is not likely to be used until December at the earliest, Prime Minister John Key announced on Monday.

An initial supply of 300,000 doses had been ordered from the international company Baxter Healthcare Limited for delivery within the month, he told a news conference after New Zealand’s first three deaths from the disease were revealed at the weekend.

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Key said the vaccine would have to be licensed by the government’s Medsafe agency which assesses the safety and efficacy of all medicines.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said clinical trials of the vaccine would be held in Europe and the purchase was strategic given that the H1N1 influenza virus pandemic could last up to two years.

‘We want to be in the position of having the vaccine and not needing it, rather than the other way around,’ he said.

He said that when approved two doses of the vaccine would be offered to 150,000 doctors, nurses, police, firefighters and other frontline health and emergency workers.

Read moreNew Zealand orders 300,000 doses of untested and unapproved swine flu vaccine

WHO declares first 21st century flu pandemic

Related article: Homeopathy Successfully Treated Flu Epidemic of 1918


swine-flu
A Japanese school boy wears as face mask as he leaves the Japanese International School in a suburb of the western German city of Duesseldorf June 11, 2009. (REUTERS)

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization declared the first flu pandemic of the 21st century on Thursday, urging countries to shore up defenses against the virus which is “not stoppable” but has proved mainly mild so far.

The United Nations agency raised its pandemic flu alert to phase 6 on a six-point scale, indicating the first influenza pandemic since 1968 is under way.

“This is a very important and challenging day for all of us. It is important because we will be raising our pandemic alert level to level 6,” WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan told reporters on a teleconference.

“At this time, the global assessment is that we are seeing a moderate pandemic.”

Acting on the recommendation of flu experts, the WHO reiterated its advice to its 193 member countries not to close borders or impose travel restrictions to halt the movement of people, goods and services.

The move to phase 6 reflects the fact that the disease, widely known as swine flu, was spreading geographically, but does not indicate how virulent it is.

Read moreWHO declares first 21st century flu pandemic

Flu Reaches 11 Countries, 331 Cases Confirmed by WHO


Inspectors for swine flu walk through a terminal at Narita International Airport in Narita City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan on April 30, 2009. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg News

May 1 (Bloomberg) — Flu reached 11 countries, as governments closed schools, planned for vaccine production and tapped emergency stockpiles of antiviral medicine.

Genetic tests have confirmed more than 331 people have the strain originally labeled swine flu, according to the World Health Organization’s Web site. Hundreds more cases are suspected in New York, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. The WHO said thousands of samples from sick patients are backlogged for testing, and disease trackers are looking at whether an outbreak in Spain should trigger a declaration of a pandemic.

The Geneva-based health agency raised its six-tier alert to 5 on April 29 and said a move to the next and final level, for the world’s first influenza pandemic since 1968, may soon be made. The WHO urged countries to make final preparations against a disease that may sweep across the globe, preying on a world population that has no natural immunity to the new virus.

Read moreFlu Reaches 11 Countries, 331 Cases Confirmed by WHO

China Culls 13,000 Poultry After Bird-Flu Outbreak

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) — China said it culled more than 13,000 poultry after discovering the H5N1 strain of avian flu on a farm in Xinjiang province, five days after saying none of the human cases this year were linked to outbreaks among birds.

The outbreak in the northwestern province, which began at the start of this month, is the country’s first since December, China’s Chief Veterinary Officer Yu Kangzhen said in a Feb. 10 report (PDF) to the World Organization for Animal Health in Paris. It said 1,330 farmed birds were infected with avian flu and 519 died.

Authorities have vaccinated 350,000 birds in Xinjiang in an effort to stop the virus spreading, Yu said in the report. China’s Ministry of Agriculture said the outbreak had been controlled, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.


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A 31-year-old woman died in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi on Jan. 23 after contracting the H5N1 virus, the official Xinhua News Agency said on Jan. 24, citing the regional health department.

The Ministry of Agriculture said there had been no avian flu outbreaks among poultry in the provinces where human infections were reported, the official China Daily reported on Feb. 6.

Eight people have been infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu in China this year and five have died, Nyka Alexander, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News today.

Read moreChina Culls 13,000 Poultry After Bird-Flu Outbreak

Flu may not have killed most in 1918 pandemic


An emergency hospital at Camp Funston, Kansas, for soldiers sickened by the 1918 flu.
REUTERS/National Museum of Health and Medicine/Armed Forces Institute of Pathology/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Strep infections and not the flu virus itself may have killed most people during the 1918 influenza pandemic, which suggests some of the most dire predictions about a new pandemic may be exaggerated, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

The findings suggest that amassing antibiotics to fight bacterial infections may be at least as important as stockpiling antiviral drugs to battle flu, they said.

Keith Klugman of Emory University in Atlanta and colleagues looked at what information is available about the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed anywhere between 50 million and 100 million people globally in the space of about 18 months.

Some research has shown that on average it took a week to 11 days for people to die — which fits in more with the known pattern of a bacterial infection than a viral infection, Klugman’s group wrote in a letter to the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Read moreFlu may not have killed most in 1918 pandemic

Who should MDs let die in a pandemic? Report offers answers

Doctors know some patients needing lifesaving care won’t get it in a flu pandemic or other disaster. The gut-wrenching dilemma will be deciding who to let die.

Now, an influential group of physicians has drafted a grimly specific list of recommendations for which patients wouldn’t be treated. They include the very elderly, seriously hurt trauma victims, severely burned patients and those with severe dementia.

The suggested list was compiled by a task force whose members come from prestigious universities, medical groups, the military and government agencies. They include the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The proposed guidelines are designed to be a blueprint for hospitals “so that everybody will be thinking in the same way” when pandemic flu or another widespread health care disaster hits, said Dr. Asha Devereaux. She is a critical care specialist in San Diego and lead writer of the task force report.

The idea is to try to make sure that scarce resources – including ventilators, medicine and doctors and nurses – are used in a uniform, objective way, task force members said.

Their recommendations appear in a report appearing Monday in the May edition of Chest, the medical journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.

“If a mass casualty critical care event were to occur tomorrow, many people with clinical conditions that are survivable under usual health care system conditions may have to forgo life-sustaining interventions owing to deficiencies in supply or staffing,” the report states.

To prepare, hospitals should designate a triage team with the Godlike task of deciding who will and who won’t get lifesaving care, the task force wrote. Those out of luck are the people at high risk of death and a slim chance of long-term survival. But the recommendations get much more specific, and include:

– People older than 85.

– Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings.

– Severely burned patients older than 60.

– Those with severe mental impairment, which could include advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

– Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes.

Dr. Kevin Yeskey, director of the preparedness and emergency operations office at the Department of Health and Human Services, was on the task force. He said the report would be among many the agency reviews as part of preparedness efforts.

Read moreWho should MDs let die in a pandemic? Report offers answers

Pandemic fear over resistant superbug

Doctors have warned that if a superbug which is known to be even more resistant to antibiotics than clostridium difficile and MRSA takes hold in hospitals, the country could face a pandemic.

The acinetobacter bug is being treated with older antibiotics because newer ones do not work. There are fears that injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have passed the infection on in civilian hospitals.

Prof Matthew Falagas, an expert in hospital-acquired infections, said: “In some cases, we have simply run out of treatments and we could be facing a pandemic with public health implications.”
He warned delegates at the Society for General Microbiology conference in Edinburgh: “Doctors in many countries have gone back to using old antibiotics that were abandoned 20 years ago because their toxic side-effects were so frequent and so bad.

Read morePandemic fear over resistant superbug

Indonesia: Rampant bird flu raises pandemic risks

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Efforts to contain bird flu are failing in Indonesia, increasing the possibility that the virus may mutate into a deadlier form, the leading U.N. veterinary health body warned.The H5N1 bird flu virus is entrenched in 31 of the country’s 33 provinces and will cause more human deaths, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement released late Tuesday.

“I am deeply concerned that the high level of virus circulation in birds in the country could create conditions for the virus to mutate and to finally cause a human influenza pandemic,” FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech said.

Indonesia “has not succeeded in containing the spread of avian influenza,” Domenech said, adding that there must be “major human and financial resources, stronger political commitment and strengthened coordination.”

The H5N1 virus has killed at least 236 people in a dozen countries worldwide since it began ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003. It has been found in birds in more than 60 countries, but Indonesia has recorded 105 deaths, almost half the global tally, according to the World Health Organization.

Read moreIndonesia: Rampant bird flu raises pandemic risks