Obama, swine flu, H1N1 virus, CDC, United States, 1918 H1N1, Germany latest country, US scientists race to prepare a vaccine against new strain of flu
From ABC News, Friday, May 1, 2009:
“Overreaction? Will Swine Flu Become a Run-of-the-Mill Outbreak?
More Schools Continue to Close, Even if They Don’t Have Confirmed Cases of Flu”
“President Obama said today that while the United States is still preparing for the worst in the wake of the swine flu scare, the outbreak could end up falling short of a pandemic and run its course just “like ordinary flus” that pass through the country every winter.
“I’m optimistic that we’re going to be able to manage this effectively,” Obama said.
“We don’t know for certain that this will end up being more severe than other flus,” he said. “It may turn out that H1N1 runs its course like ordinary flus.”
The head of the CDC’s influenza division Dr. Nancy Cox, said today that preliminary research suggests that the make up of this current virus is lacking some key components of the 1918 flu pandemic that killed between 30-50 million people and to which the new strain has recently been compared.
“What we have found by looking very carefully at the sequence of the new H1N1 virus is that we’re not seeing the markers for virulence that we saw in 1918 virus,” she said. But she added that scientists still may not know all they need to know about the 1918 H1N1 strain and are “continuing to look for virulence markers.”
Dr. Julie Gerberding, former head of the CDC, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that we “have to be careful not to over-rely on that kind of information because these flu viruses always evolve.”
“Officials still remain cautious about the outbreak. Friday afternoon a United Airlines flight from Germany to Washington D.C. was diverted to Boston after a passenger complained of flu-like symptoms.
Meanwhile, as more schools across the United States close in response to the swine flu outbreak, some estimate that a quarter of a million schoolchildren were out of school this morning.”
The CDC reports a total of 141 cases and one confirmed death in the United States, with more flu cases likely to come as state and federal health officials analyze samples.
The latest state to join the list of state-confirmed cases as of this afternoon was Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist said two cases of swine flu — an 11-year-old boy and the 17-year-old girl in different counties — had been verified.
On Friday, Germany became the latest country to report a swine flu infection. A total of 11 countries now have at least one case, and the number of confirmed cases is 331, according to the World Health Organization, up from 257 Thursday.
U.S. authorities have promised to produce enough swine flu vaccine for the country, but the it won’t be available until fall at the earliest.”
“U.S. Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Craig Vanderwagen told lawmakers that it would take several months before pilot tests on humans could ensure that any vaccine would be safe and effective against the flu. Assuming that everything goes well, mass production of the vaccine could begin in the fall.
“We think 600 million doses is achievable in a six-month time frame” from that fall start, he said, adding, “I don’t want anybody to have false expectations. The science is challenging here.”
Until then, the government has stockpiled anti-viral medicines to help ease symptoms of the flu and prevent further infection. So far, the medications are said to have worked effectively.
In the midst of concerns that the current outbreak could resurface as a new flu strain in the fall, U.S. authorities are now shipping millions of doses of anti-flu drugs to all states.”
“Did an Obama Staffer Bring the Virus to the U.S.?
The Obama administration may have had a brush with the swine flu outbreak after a member of the White House advance team on Obama’s recent trip to Mexico apparently came down with the disease.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the staff member, whom he did not identify, began to feel ill April 16 after he accompanied Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to Mexico in advance of Obama’s arrival. Two days later, Gibbs said the staff member returned to the United States on a United Airlines flight to Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C.
On April 28, the individual’s wife, son and nephew tested positive for H1N1, Gibbs said, adding that samples had been sent to the CDC to determine if it is the same strain of H1N1 that now threatens to spark a global pandemic.”
“The first death from swine flu in the United States occurred Wednesday, when a 22-month-old baby boy in Texas died.
The worst hit state so far is New York, with 51 confirmed cases.”
“Swine Flu Ground Zero
With the flu spreading quickly in the United States and across the globe, the actions of Mexican health officials are under the microscope. Many health experts question whether the government has done enough to contain the flu.
Oscar Barrera, who was diagnosed with the flu Monday and prescribed Tamiflu, said he was sent home by medical officials and simply told to keep away from other people.
Barrera claimed that health officials did not test his pregnant wife and three-year-old son, or anyone in the cell phone shop where he worked, for the flu.
“What worries me most is if the officials don’t do enough to protect my family,” Barrera told ABC News.
According to Mexico’s health ministry, there now have been 12 confirmed deaths of the swine flu in Mexico, but roughly 176 deaths are suspected of having been caused by the virus. There are nearly 3,000 suspected cases.”
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