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Archive for May, 2010

The next update will be on Thursday, May 25th, at 0830 hrs PST.

The WHO Pandemic Alert level remains at Phase 6

Influenza A (H1N1) Cases and Deaths*

*Cases reported by The World Health Organization (WHO) are as of May 9, 2010

International News

In the face of criticism, some powerful support steps forward for the WHO

There is no shortage of criticism for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) handling of the H1N1 outbreak.  Chat forums and web logs are rife with accusations of collusion with the pharmaceutical industry.  Almost a third of the European Union’s members of parliament have signed a petition criticizing the WHO’s handling of the influenza pandemic and calling for an investigation.  

This week the World Health Assembly, the decision-making arm of the WHO, convenes to discuss a range of global health issues including the H1N1 pandemic response.  At the first day of the gathering, France, India, and the US gave public statements in support of the WHO’s efforts.  French Health Minister, Roselyne Bachelot went so far as to issue a point-by-point rebuttal of the criticisms saying the UN agency had been “taken to task in an unjust manner,” and that “the vaccine, which was the answer to a real danger, turned into a source of risk in the collective mind.  The effects of this smear campaign are potentially devastating.”  

In her opening address to the assembly, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that the news regarding the pandemic is mostly good, and while public health successes are usually owed to political commitment, adequate resources and cooperation, this time we were “just plain lucky.” For India’s part, this seems to either represent a 180° change in their position, or that their earlier criticism was a political gambit.  Agence France-Presse

H1N1 response review committee holds its first press conference

On May 19 the external review committee for the WHO’s pandemic response held a press conference to discuss the findings of their first meeting.  The group’s final report will be a public document and is under no restrictions on scope of their recommendations.  Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chair of the review committee outlined their mandate saying they were looking to into any aspect that bears on lessons for the future saying, “We want to offer recommendations that are keyed to the problems we find. We want to offer recommendations that enable the world, WHO and the nations, to do better the next time, and we are confident there will be a next time.”

The committee plans to measure the WHO’s response in term of 5 issues: preparedness, alert, response, communication and International Health Regulations performance.  To facilitate its investigation, the committee will have access to confidential WHO documents and data.  While the report will be public, Dr. Fineberg said that the group will have no authority to compel confidential documents into the public view.  When asked what types of confidential information the group had, he described it as mostly letters of agreement and contracts with private industry.  World Health Organization

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The next update will be on Thursday, May 18th, at 0830 hrs PST.

 The WHO Pandemic Alert level remains at Phase 6

Influenza A (H1N1) Cases and Deaths*

 

*Cases reported by The World Health Organization (WHO) are as of May 9, 2010

National News

H1N1 claims the life another Canadian

A Quebecois man who recently returned from a trip to Cuba has died after contracting the H1N1 virus. The man passed away in a Montreal hospital after transferring from Shawinigan, near his home. Quebec health authorities say the death does not mark the beginning of a third pandemic wave. “We know now that there are many flu cases in Cuba,” said Dr. Gilles Grenier, a public health director in the Shawinigan region. “The hypothesis is that he got the virus over there, so it’s really an isolated case.” The man, who was in his fifties, suffered from asthma and had not been vaccinated against H1N1. CBC News

 International News

 India approves its first H1N1 vaccine supplier

The Drug Controller General of India has approved pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadilia to market its own H1N1 vaccine. The nod makes Zydus Cadilia the first company in India to domestically to launch an H1N1 vaccine. The Ahmedabad-based company will use Vaxxicare, its preventative medication division, to sell the vaccine under the trade-name VaxiFlu-S. “With the development and launch of vaxiflu-s, Zydus now has proven capabilities in researching, developing, and manufacturing of safe and efficacious vaccines,” said Pankaj Patel, the company’s chairman and managing director. He went on to say that he expects Zydus Calilia to soon produce vaccines for other viral, bacterial and protozoal infections. Hindustan Times

Researchers say the benefits of H1N1 prophylaxis must be quantified against side-effects

A study published in the European science journal Eurosurveillance reports that side-effects are a significant factor in the dispensing of the anti-viral drug oseltamivir as a mass, preventative antiviral blanket. Of the students and staff at a British elementary school given the drug in June 2009 as a prophylactic measure, 42% reported adverse side-effects and 15% did not complete the course of oseltamivir due to adverse effects. The authors of the study call for an assessment of each patient’s likelihood of infection to avoid unnecessary treatment. Eurosurveillance

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Global’s H1N1 Update

The next update will be on Tuesday, May 18th, at 0830 hrs PST.

The WHO Pandemic Alert level remains at Phase 6

Influenza A (H1N1) Cases and Deaths*

*Cases reported by The World Health Organization (WHO) are as of May 2, 2010

Looking ahead: beyond H1N1

With the North American H1N1 pandemic looking more and more like it’s over, Global Consulting has partnered with Roche Canada to host a workshop aimed at helping groups and organizations carry their pandemic safeguarding measures beyond H1N1. Many organizations spent a lot of money and worked like yeomen preparing for the pandemic, and a lot of companies have gleaned new insights into their operations through their efforts. There’s no reason to scrap those resources just because the crucible they were forged in has cooled. There will be other infectious threats in the future, to be sure, but the benefits realized here can also be applied in areas well beyond the scope of emergency planning.

A number of speakers are confirmed for the workshop. Dr. Allan Holmes helped a lot of companies and government authorities develop their frontline response to the pandemic. He’s going to share his experiences in guiding the public through the threat. Dr. Graham Dodd, an emergency physician who worked clinically at Royal Inland Hospital during the outbreak, will talk about the impact H1N1 had on our health care system and the kinds of things it, and we, can expect in the future. Also, Gian Di Giambattista, one of Ontario Power Generation’s emergency planning chiefs, will give his perspective working at a utility few of us can do without, and, with three nuclear power plants on line, has little inherent tolerance for operational disruptions. All three men expect to give and come away with valuable insight gathered from each other and the attendees. Global Consulting

International News

WHO will take another look at its pandemic alert status

After the onset of the southern hemispheric winter, the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee will meet to re-assess the status of the H1N1 pandemic. The 15-member panel will then recommend that the UN body maintain its current alert status, stand down to a “post-peak” level or declare the pandemic over. To date, there have been over 18 000 laboratory-confirmed deaths due to H1N1, but it will be a few years before we know the actual death toll. John Mackenzie, the committee chair and the only member known to the public, said that the casualty rate will prove to be high as the 1957 and 1968 outbreaks, which claimed lives by the millions. Identities of committee members are kept secret to insulate them from influence from drug companies or special interest groups. Reuters

EU Members of Parliament are miffed over their handling of H1N1

Over 200 deputies of the of the 736-member European Union’s Parliament have called for an investigation into the EU’s response to the H1N1 outbreak. Isabelle Durant, a Belgian MEP, described the EU’s management of the pandemic as having “seriously undermined the credibility of, and confidence in our institutions.” The proposal sent to the parliament asserts that the amount spent on vaccines was unwarranted, officials should have changed their response tactics early on, and that the EU relies too heavily on the World Health Organization. The Parliament

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The next update will be on Thursday, May 13th, at 0830 hrs PST.

The WHO Pandemic Alert level remains at Phase 6

Influenza A (H1N1) Cases and Deaths*

*Cases reported by The World Health Organization (WHO) are as of May 2, 2010

International News

H1N1 may have been a milder pandemic than expected, but in populations affected by the disease, the impact has been profound.

In a meeting with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement saying that the two pandemic waves of H1N1 in America have claimed the lives of 317 patients under the age of 18.  Compared to the last five years, that amounts to over 3.5 times the pediatric mortality rate for seasonal influenza.  The average age for deaths was 9.4 years, older than the previous averages which were a little over 6 years.  Of the deaths, 65% (205) of the patients were in a high risk category for influenza-related complications due to underlying conditions such as obstructive pulmonary disease, neurological disorders, asthma, and heart disease.  In contrast, only 43% of those who died in the previous two seasons had these conditions.  CDC Flu Activity and Surveillance

Routine pediatric vaccination uptake on the decline in the US

A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more American parents are refusing or significantly delaying vaccinations for their children.  Compared with parents who opted for vaccinations, those who declined were less likely to believe that their children were susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases, that the diseases were a health concern, or that vaccines are safe and effective.  Children who are not immunized by 19 months of age risk being more vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases.  CBC News

Vaccine shortages in Australia

Australia’s supply of seasonal influenza vaccine, which includes protection from pandemic H1N1, is running low. In Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, pharmacies have started waiting lists for people seeking immunizations.  Because of the unexpected demand, CSL, the company that makes most of the country’s vaccines, rushed a second batch to market but warns that there may be more shortages.  The Herald Sun

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