Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Is swine flu getting worse?

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No, says the U.S. federal government, but officials finally have enough data to give a good picture of the pandemic and it isn’t pretty. The CDC estimates that 22 million Americans caught swine flu in the first six months of the pandemic and 3,900 people died.

This includes 540 children.

So why the big jump in numbers? In a country of 300 million people, it takes some time to do a count. The US doesn’t have an organized public health system and states and cities lack enough staff to crunch the numbers in real-time. So the CDC takes a representative, detailed sampling from 10 states and then extrapolates this to the total US population. The latest figures are the first to give a good estimate of how extensive the pandemic is so far.

The CDC is pushing vaccines but at the same time, supply is spotty and people are often suspicious of them. Americans are not alone in this mistrust, by the way – check here for an unpdate on what is happening in Europe.  And here is one creative way to help prevent the spread…

from Summit Notebook:

Swine flu sales: windfall or hard work?

Swine flu is turning out to be a sales bonanza for drug companies - just don't call it a windfall, says GlaxoSmithKline.

As one of the world's top suppliers of both vaccines and antiviral medicine, CEO Andrew Witty resents the implication that billions of dollars of business simply fell into his company's lap when the World Health Organisation declared H1N1 a pandemic in June.

Swine flu vaccination finally starts

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  Swine flu vaccination is under way in the US, although the CDC admits it is a bumpy start .

 The World Health Organization is worried that people may believe rumors about the safety of the vaccine and avoid it .  What could happen with H1N1 anyway?

from Maggie Fox:

Where scientists go to learn about swine flu

Usually, at a forum on swine flu, all the experts stand up, present a bunch of general background material, a few new findings, and leave. The learning curve on H1N1 is so steep that by the time you fill in the background, you are out of time, and there's no point in hearing the next presenter speak to a general audience

But this week's Institute of Medicine  meeting was different. Epidemiologists - the people who specialize in how disease spreads - were talking to molecular geneticists. Keiji Fukuda of the World Health Organization filled in the bench scientists on how negotiating to get vaccines and drugs for poor countries was taking up everyone's valuable time. Veterans of the 1976 swine flu vaccine mess told their stories. Every scientist sat there raptly listening to the other's presentations. Much of the material had not yet gone through the time consuming peer-review process needed for publication in a medical journal, so it was a little raw, but that much more useful and timely to an educated audience.

from Maggie Fox:

Is swine flu an investment opportunity?

You can prevent swine flu by washing your hands and keeping away from sick people, but how do you make money off of it?  Some smaller companies such as Vical and Novavax hope the pandemic might make a short cut for them.

In general vaccines are not lucrative money-makers but this could change.

And then there are always the big antiviral makers. CDC's new guidelines do not offer hope for much more market for them, however. They recommend preserving these drugs for people who really need them.

from Maggie Fox:

Swine flu update

WHO has given up on trying to keep any kind of precise count on swine flu, which is just about everywhere now. It's fairly mild but hardly anyone has any immunity, so it will infect far more people than seasonal flu does in an average year. That may mean more serious cases and more deaths than usual, just by virtue of sheer numbers.

It is affecting lots of kids but there are some clear guidelines for health care workers to protect themselves and their families.

Swine flu– too many to count

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The World Health Organization, which had been patiently publishing every single confirmed case of swine flu, now finally says there are too many too even try counting. This will ease confusion, as the 94,000 confirmed cases were clearly only the tip of the iceberg:

Click here for WHO’s statement.

And while the pandemic is still fairly mild,  government are not taking chances — and vaccine makers are feeling the strain

When the going got tough, this school nurse got creative

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When her tiny office at a prestigious private school in Queens started to fill up with sick and scared students, nurse Mary Pappas took a deep breath and got inventive.  Check out how her on-the-fly responses might help others trying to cope with the swine flu pandemic:

http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE5687PY20090709

Meantime keep an eye out for WHO recommendations for vaccinations on Monday:

http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE5692D420090710

 

We’ll let you know what the likely outcomes are.

http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaCrisis/idUSN10528404

And could obesity be a risk factor for severe swine flu infection? Keep an eye out on our HEALTH coverage page

Tracking the flu with George Washington

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Northwestern professor Dirk Brockmann thinks he can track the spread of H1N1 flu and other future epidemics, thanks in part to the humble $1 bill.

“We’re looking at how people travel in the United States and Europe and trying to find a theory behind human traffic,” Brockmann said. “Then we can unravel the structures within these networks and explain them.”

Mexicans take flu outbreak with dose of skepticism

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Mexicans are taking the swine flu outbreak a bit like they do their tequila – seriously, but with a big pinch of salt.

There’s a real fear of catching the killer virus, which has already claimed up to 159 lives, largely because many Mexicans are skeptical about getting the right treatment from state hospitals.

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