Thursday, July 23, 2009

Swine Flu

Below is an interesting article about Swine flu and it's worldwide spread. It is important now to prepare a good preparedness plan in the work place as well as at schools. Many are concerned the schools and daycares may shut down and this can seriously affect the workplace. What plan has your workplace put together in that event? If you are in the cleaning industry what are you offering your customers in the event of a community outbreak?

Fastest-Moving Flu Pandemic May Strike U.S. Early (Update1)

By Tom Randall

July 17 (Bloomberg) -- Swine flu has taken root across the globe faster than any previous influenza pandemic, and its full force may strike the U.S. earlier than the typical flu season, health officials said.

Vaccine production is on schedule to combat the pandemic in October, and the difficulty some drug companies are facing with manufacturing is accounted for in the timetable, Anne Schuchat, director of the Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said today in a conference call.

The World Health Organization said yesterday that the H1N1 influenza was moving with “unprecedented speed.” The flu has spread farther globally in less than six weeks than previous pandemics have in more than six months, the Geneva-based agency said on itsWeb site. The virus has moved unpredictably, in a “popcorn pattern,” and communication among scientists has enabled a swift response to the disease, Schuchat said.

“We’re taking this virus very seriously, and I think it’s very important for the public to be thinking ahead,” Schuchat said today. “We do expect there to be an increase this fall. Influenza is unpredictable, and we don’t know the extent of the challenges that we’re going to face in the weeks and months ahead.”

The WHO scrapped its method of reporting numbers of confirmed cases and deaths, saying yesterday the system was too much of a burden on health-care workers and didn’t accurately represent infections because most people don’t get tested.

Million Infected

Schuchat today said the CDC may also stop reporting its counts of laboratory-confirmed cases. The most recent U.S. tally lists 263 deaths and 40,617 infections, though health officials have said more than 1 million Americans have been sickened by swine flu.

Baxter International Inc., Sanofi-Aventis SA and Novartis AG said yesterday that the flu virus being used to make a vaccine against the pandemic isn’t yielding much of the antigen needed to protect people.

Robert Parkinson Jr., chief executive officer of Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter, said companies are rejecting orders and will be able to sell as much vaccine as they can produce.

One-Third Yield

Lab workers are harvesting one dose or less of the component they need from each egg in which the virus is grown, said Eric Althoff, a spokesman for Novartis, based in Basel, Switzerland. That’s from one-third to one-half of the typical yield for a seasonal flu vaccine, he said.

Lower yields are accounted for in the CDC’s plans to get a vaccine ready for the flu season in October, Schuchat said. The seasonal flu typically begins in late September in the northern hemisphere, according to the CDC. Schuchat didn’t say how preparations would be affected by the early onset of a fall outbreak.

“This virus is continuing to cause illness and outbreaks in the summer months, in temperature and humidity conditions that are typically unfavorable” for the seasonal flu, Schuchat said. “We are expecting an increase in influenza or respiratory illness earlier than we typically see.”

Clinical trials for the vaccine are expected to begin in early August, and it may be two months before they are completed and analyzed,Jesse Goodman, chief scientist and deputy commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said today on the conference call. Liability for any side effects from the vaccine will probably be covered by the U.S. government, not the vaccine makers, Schuchat said.

Younger Population

The pandemic has continued to infect a younger population than most influenza outbreaks, with children being hospitalized at elevated rates, Schuchat said.

In the southern hemisphere, “we’ve heard of intensive care units with many people, younger people, who have the H1N1 virus,” she said.

Pregnant women and people with underlying health risks such as asthma also are at higher risk of severe disease and complications, she said. Scientists also are studying whether obese people also are at an elevated risk of H1N1. There are unusually few infections among the elderly.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Randall in New York at trandall6@bloomberg.net.