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Archive for the ‘System Design’ Category

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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Pneumonia is worse when mixed with H1N1

Researchers at the University of Chicago have discovered that the pandemic H1N1 flu virus has the intrinsic ability to cause more severe pneumonia than seasonal H1N1 flu. This ability is a measure of a flu virus’s pandemic potential. They found pandemic H1N1 caused a pneumonia in certain patients that was intermediate in severity between seasonal H1N1 and the highly pathogenic H5N1. University of Chicago Journal of Infectious Diseases

H1N1 Evolution

Scientists at the University of Hong Kong have isolated the first reported genetic reassortment of the H1N1 virus. The reassortment is a hybrid of the original swine flu and the human pandemic H1N1 virus. Reassortments occur when a single host is infected by more than one strain of virus, and the mixed virus particles assemble themselves into something new. The Chinese Department of Agriculture released a statement saying that the new virus does not pose a public health risk or food-safety issue. University of Minnesota CIDRAP

H1N1 Adds Risk to Pregnancy

An Australian study has found that pregnant women can be particularly vulnerable to H1N1 especially if the mothers are asthmatic, diabetic, or obese. However, effects of H1N1 on the fetus are less well understood. Doctors recommend flu shots for pregnant women, but many women are reluctant to receive immunizations or take drugs during pregnancy. The researchers note there is evidence that doctors’ lack of awareness may be “a major contributor, with good acceptance by mothers when the risks and benefits are explained.” Reuters

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