Friday, November 17, 2006

November 16 Flu Update

The US government had stockpiled enough flu vaccine doses for 4 million people. However, in storage, the vaccine is degrading, and there is now only enough for 3 million people. CIDRAP reports.

Hall said not very much is known about the shelf life of flu vaccines, "because the main experience is with seasonal vaccine. At the end of the season the vaccine that's not used is thrown away. We don't keep it around, so no one really knows how long it would stay good for." With many flu virus strains circulating at any given time, seasonal flu vaccines have to be adjusted every year to match the strains expected to be dominant.

Recently, HHS recommended respirator usage for healthcare workers during a pandemic. However, clinicians are worried about supplies, which they say are strained now. CIDRAP reports.

ProMed on the two mutations required to make a flu virus a pandemic strain.

Effect Measure also comments on this story. What he says is that researchers have a tendency to overstate their conclusions for the media, because the real conclusion from most studies (especially about nature) is usually not great copy, because they simply cannot be conclusive and often require additional work.

President Bush is going to tour the facilities Vietnam used to launch its much lauded bird flu program.

Elsewhere at the APEC meetings, people are urging that bird flu still be a priority.

There are some new outbreak areas in Northern Egypt.

Recombinomics notes that H5N1 is being found in surveillance in the US, though it is low path.

Surveillance is being done in Northern California.

Nacogdoches, TX, had a pandemic exercise.

A panel discussion at MIT is reported here--the gist is that science is gaining ground on the flu virus.

A focus group in Kansas was held to discuss a pandemic response.

A trial is being held in China for people accused of selling fake flu drugs.

This columnist is glad that a pandemic didn't hit before his Thanksgiving dinner.

This blog post talks about the "hype laden" pandemic scare.


At 10:03 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


I always read the articles you post from three angles - what the article actually says, what it does not say, and what is "between the lines". Here's what caught my interest when I read the CIDRAP article:

The article says that due to the limited shelf life of the present clade 1 H5N1 vaccine, the U.S. stockpile in the HHS inventory has diminished from approx 4M courses, down to 3M. Notice that it the article does not say who the courses are actually for. And the answer is - for the military, the top level government officials, and the front emergency health care workers. It is not going to be distributed to anyone else - you simply don't make the list.

The article also describes the number of N95 respirators, PPE, surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns. Notice carefully, not listed or mentioned is guess what, body bags. As morbid as it sounds, body bags are a vital part of pandemic planning for severe scenarios that HHS and other other government agencies simply do not want to discuss. Want to get people on prozac quick - mention the purchase of mass numbers of body bags. Are they ordering them ? Yep. Chances are you wont get any antivirals right away, but you will be far more likely to be fitted with a body bag.

Now read between the lines carefully, this is the best part. The HHS only has 16M courses of antivirals on hand; plans on having 36M on hand by March 2007; and has a long term goal of 50M courses by the end of 2008. In addition, they have made available 31M courses of anitvirals to the States. Sounds impressive, right ? Wrong. This really means that by March 2007, the U.S. will only have a maximum of 67M total courses of antivirals on hand if a killer pandemic breaks out. Not nearly enough for a 300M total population, especially if two courses are required per person. Moving on to 2008, and there still won't be nearly enough antivirals for the total population. In fact by my calculation, only enough for 27% of the population, assuming only one course only. Increase the requirement to two courses per person, and you only have enough antivirals for 13-14% of the U.S. population in 2008.

The all tells me, we are playing a high stakes game of poker. Winner take all.



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