"Seqirus Media Monitoring" 5th Feb 2018
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Scientists to look into how rapidly bird flu can adapt to infect humans
Scientists at two leading UK research establishments have been awarded a grant to research what makes particular strains of bird flu more likely to adapt to infect humans, possibly initiating a pandemic. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council funding for the Pirbright Institute and Imperial College, London, will be used to look at which avian flu strains can rapidly accumulate genetic adaptations that help avian flu viruses infect mammals. This will enable scientists to identify which strains pose a threat to humans and potentially cause major problems across the globe.
On top of everything, GOP stinginess could lead to a global pandemic
In the U.S., the CDC is preparing to significantly curtail epidemic prevention in 39 countries as money dries up. It is already making preparations to downsize in countries notorious for infectious diseases, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, which recently endured and beat its eighth Ebola outbreak, and China, which is currently experiencing a horrific H7N9 bird flu epidemic
No new influenza virus has been detected in Viet Nam
In Vietnam, the number of people, especially children, seeking treatment for the seasonal flu virus at hospitals has been on the rise. Luckily, no new influenza virus has been found so far, the Ministry of Health has said. Until now, Việt Nam has not found any avian flu infections with the A/H7N9, A/H5N8, and A/H5N2 in poultry or humans. Last year, China reported the fifth outbreak of the deadly virus of A/H7N9 since the virus was first detected in 2013. The number of infected patients reached 1,600, and over 600 people died.
SAB Capra Awarded $225K from NIH to Broaden Novel Immunotherapy Platform
SAB Capra has been awarded a $225,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to advance its novel immunotherapy platform targeting pandemic influenza in collaboration with Utah State University. The company will use the funds to continue development and optimization of its transchromosomal (Tc) goats to broaden the Tc animal platform developed by SAB Biotherapeutics, to small ungulate species. The award outlines evaluation of Tc goat produced human antibodies to fight the pandemic influenza (H7N9) with which the goats were vaccinated to generate the natural immune response.
Recipe for an advocacy campaign: Just add media and stir things up
CBC's Second Opinion looks into a case study: Sanofi Pasteur's campaign to get governments to purchase an expensive new high-dose flu vaccine for seniors over 65, using the media. In Canada, so far Ontario has announced it will pay for the high-dose vaccine next year. And Manitoba is already covering it for seniors in long-term care facilities.
Shionogi to offer single-dose drug that combats influenza
Shionogi & Co. is set to market a one-step medication to contain influenza viruses. The new drug as yet to be named in English needs to be ingested only once, compared with Tamiflu, which must be taken twice daily over a five-day period. Shionogi said it has high expectations the drug will combat influenza viruses that are resistant to current medicines on the market. The company also expects that the drug will reduce the risk of contagion.
Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children
In children aged between 3 and 16 years, live influenza vaccines probably reduce influenza (moderate-certainty evidence) and may reduce ILI (low-certainty evidence) over a single influenza season. In this population inactivated vaccines also reduce influenza (high-certainty evidence) and may reduce ILI (low-certainty evidence). For both vaccine types, the absolute reduction in influenza and ILI varied considerably across the study populations, making it difficult to predict how these findings translate to different settings
Fifteen children in intensive care during flu season
In Ireland, fifteen children have been left fighting for their lives, following admission to intensive care, since the start of the winter flu season. This is more than double the number of under 14-year-olds admitted to intensive care units during the last influenza season.
Rapid flu test has high false-negative results in children
The CDC reports that this year with the flu being so prevalent the rapid flu test is not as accurate, compared to when flu activity is relatively low or within normal ranges. The CDC also states that even if a rapid flu test is negative, but you have symptoms of the flu, you should stay home, get plenty of rest, and drink plenty of fluids
CDC: 53 children have died from flu
The number of children dying from flu this season continues to rise, now reaching 53, according to the CDC. Young children are especially vulnerable to flu complications. Sixteen pediatric deaths were reported during the week ending Jan. 27. During a regular season, pediatric flu deaths have ranged from 37 to 171 and spiked to 358 during the 2009 pandemic. About 20% of children who died this season had been vaccinated, and roughly half did not have an underlying condition, according to the CDC.
Winter Sports May Help Spread Flu Virus Between Children, Experts Say
With the flu virus going around, some parents may be concerned about their children and close contact sports. Is it a good idea to let your child go to their sports practice or game when flu season kicks into high gear? Doctors said even when kids feel healthy again they can still be contagious for anywhere from five days to two weeks after recovery.
Family Blames Tamiflu For 16-year-Old Teen's Suicide
The family of an Indiana teenager who committed suicide after taking only two doses of Tamiflu believes the drug's severe side effects caused his untimely death. The manufacturer declined to comment on Harp's death. However, it issued a subsequent statement, confirming that similar side effects have already been reported and that these cases also involved younger flu patients. Although it assured that such reports would be investigated, Tamiflu's maker emphasized there is still no evidence proving these events were induced by its product.
Early Flu Symptoms In Babies That Should Be Addressed ASAP
Children who are 6 months to 8 years old will need two doses of the flu vaccine, 28 days apart. A 2017 study published in Pediatrics said that the flu shot caused a reduction in the number of pediatric deaths from influenza. Since babies younger than 6 months cannot receive a vaccination, it's important for their parents, siblings and caregivers to be vaccinated.
Flu kills 6 children, 1 pregnant woman in TN
Seven people have died in Tennessee this year from the flu, according to the state's health department. Six of the people who died were children. The seventh victim was a pregnant woman. All of the victims are from Middle or East Tennessee. Doctors in the Mid-South continue to warn patients that the flu is as serious as it's ever been.
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Can You Get the Flu Twice in One Season?
Experts say it is possible to catch the flu twice in one season. That's because there are multiple strains of flu viruses circulating at any one time, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. So getting sick with one strain of flu won't necessarily protect you from a different strain. If you do catch the flu, and you haven't received the flu vaccine for the season, doctors generally recommend that you still get a flu shot after you're no longer sick, particularly if it's early on in the flu season, Schaffner said.
The flu vaccine is only 10 percent effective this year. Blame eggs.
The first data on how well the flu vaccine is working this season in North America has just been published: the study, from the journal Eurosurveillance, found that the flu vaccine was only 10 percent effective against H3N2 among adults aged 20 to 64 years old in Canada. There are a couple of reasons why it’s harder to vaccinate against H3N2. For one, the virus mutates as it moves through the population at a faster rate than other flu viruses — making it even harder to design a shot that matches the circulating virus. One other reason the flu vaccine tends to underperform in H3N2 years has to do with the fact it is made with eggs
FDA Issues Statement on Ongoing Efforts to Mitigate Impact of Saline Shortages During Flu Season
U.S. FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, has issued the following statement on ongoing efforts to mitigate impact of saline shortages during this flu season: "As flu activity remains widespread across the U.S., the FDA continues to monitor this situation closely and in coordination with our colleagues at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We’re continuing to take steps to help ensure that people with the flu have access to critical medical products, including antivirals, saline and other supportive care drugs and devices."
"Wash your stinking hands!": ER nurse rants about "cesspool of funky flu"
A Florida nurse working to combat “a cesspool of funky flu” in the emergency room has gained widespread attention from a viral video on social media urging people to take precautions to avoid influenza. After a 12-hour night shift in an emergency room in northwest Florida, Katherine Lockler, a registered nurse, offered some expert medical advice. Since Lockler's video, an online petition is urging support for “ER nurses and staff and the spreading of education during this horrible flu season.”
Flu expert presses for bigger HA cash boost
Hong Kong University flu expert Yuen Kwok-yung has called on the government to set up a HK$50 billion fund to help the Hospital Authority improve operational efficiency. Yuen also hopes a flu vaccine that can be sprayed into nostrils could be further developed locally. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced last week an additional HK$500 million to help the HA combat the manpower shortage in this winter flu season.
Hong Kong’s first nasal spray flu vaccine should be trialled in mainland China to speed up process, top HKU microbiologist says
Hong Kong’s first locally developed nasal spray flu vaccine could be made available in three years by conducting clinical trials in mainland China and seeking approval from the national drug authority instead of waiting for endorsement from local officials, according to the city’s top microbiologist. University of Hong Kong professor Yuen Kwok-yung said he hoped the spray would be in use before his retirement at the end of 2021, to help increase vaccination rates in the city.
Minnesota vaccination activists now are seeking political allies
At a forum for state legislators, leaders of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota hope to persuade lawmakers to support an “informed consent” bill, which would require doctors to discuss risks with parents before vaccinating babies. Jennifer Larson, a leader of the nonprofit council and an organization called Healthchoice, said her group is not anti-vaccine; they believe consumers just need more upfront information about risks. But state health officials worry that opponents want to promote unproven claims that could unnecessarily scare people away from vaccinations.
As Flu Spreads, Sales of Remedies Go Viral
In the U.S., the flu, nasty as it is, has been something of a windfall for marketers peddling cleaning products, vaccines and over-the-counter medications. With reports of many pharmacies running out of the flu vaccine, Walgreens said some locations may not be offering all types of flu vaccine "due to recent increases in flu activity and heightened demand for flu shots." But the chain says it still offers flu shots daily at most pharmacies and the company's Healthcare Clinics. Walgreens only reports the number of flu vaccines administered annually, and couldn't break out how many flu vaccines it has administered so far this flu season versus last year.
'Australian flu': It's not from Australia
H3N2 is the flu virus making most people sick, Dr Anthony Fauci of NIAID says; it was also the dominant strain in the Australian season and the reason why many people refer to "Australian flu." Though the strain did not originate in Australia -- one study suggests that it emerged in or near Hong Kong -- it quickly became dominant during the Australian flu season of 2017 and has gone on to dominate the world's infections. This article recaps the various situations with regard to the flu around the world this year
Sen. Markey Calls On Congress To Spend $1B For Universal Flu Vaccine
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) visited Massachusetts General Hospital on Friday to call on Congress to invest $1 billion over five years for researchers to create a new universal flu vaccine. Markey said he will introduce the Flu Vaccine Bill next week.
The nasty flu season could cost U.S. businesses $15B in lost productivity
This year in the U.S., as an aggressive flu strain, H3N2, goes around and with the flu season yet to peak, employers and workers face a difficult dilemma: What do you do when folks just don't feel well? This is such a big challenge that Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a prominent employment consulting firm, on Friday raised its earlier estimates by 64% estimating that the flu virus could cause more than 18 million U.S. employees to miss at least four, eight-hour shifts. At an average hourly wage of $26.63, the firm said that represents at least $15.4 billion in lost productivity nationwide. That's considerably higher than in 2014, when the consulting firm estimated total U.S. productivity losses due to illness at $7 billion.
Study: "Anti-vaxxers" often believe other conspiracy theories
A survey of more than 5,300 people in 24 countries on five continents found that people who believe in conspiracy theories are more likely to believe that vaccines aren't safe, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. The study findings were published Feb. 1 in the journal Health Psychology. People with anti-vaccination attitudes also were found to be intolerant of limits on their freedom, and uneasy about blood and needles. They also were described as having an individualistic worldview.
The Flu Has Killed 53 Children So Far, But the Scientists Who Study It Are Short on Funds
Funding for flu research is notoriously paltry. Even though the virus kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, neither Congress nor Big Pharma see it as a priority. “You have a major funding deficit at the federal level, which is really dangerous,” says Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. The U.S. administration has sent mixed signals about its stance on flu research. While its proposed budget did include modest funding, Trump himself has expressed skepticism about the flu vaccine.
Influenza Vaccination is Global But Not the Same
Spurred by vaccine shortages in 2004-5, WHO has provided a global overview of the industry's influenza efforts. The 16 manufacturers of influenza vaccine have increased capacity from 1.5 billion doses in 2006 to 6.4 billion this year. They re-formulate and manufacture those 6 billion new influenza doses with only a six-month head start. It is an impressive feat of biologic manufacture, something for which Big Pharma gets little credit. Vaccination programs are more complex than the lay public appreciates, influenced by characteristics of the influenza virus as well as our infrastructure and political will. In the U.S., many of these issues have been addressed, yet our vaccination rate is only 38%. Big Pharma has stepped up to increase production; now we need to concentrate on improving global demand.
16 more children dead from flu; peak still to come, CDC says
Sixteen flu-related deaths were reported Friday by the U.S. CDC in its weekly flu report. This brings the total number of pediatric flu-related deaths to 53 for the season, which began in October. "Our latest tracking data indicate that flu activity is still high and widespread across most of the nation and increasing overall," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the acting CDC director. "So far this year, the cumulative rate of hospitalizations is the highest since we've been tracking in this way, which goes back to 2010."
Deadly North Korean flu virus infects 200,000 killing children days before Winter Olympics
In North Korea, state officials say there are around 200,000 infected by the virus which has so far claimed four lives, three of them children under the age of five. The WHO said 126,574 have been struck with flu-like symptoms while 81,640 are confirmed with influenza A. South Korea – hosting the Pyeongchang Games on Friday – confirmed 1,250 cases of A and B influenza virus. The nation is already getting to grips with its own outbreak of avian flu, which has been limited to birds but has resulted in the mass slaughter of chickens to stop it spreading.
HSE reveal children among 55 people to die from flu over the winter and warn that virus could stick around for up to ten weeks
In Ireland, health bosses have revealed that 55 people have died from flu over the winter season. New figures released by the HSE showed that the majority of people who died from the virus were over the age of 65. Less than ten children have died from the illness. It is an increase of 21 people from last week’s figure of 34.
State investigating 52 potential flu deaths
The Alabama Department of Public Health is looking into 52 adult deaths statewide that might be flu-related. The state health department began on Jan. 11 requiring care providers and others to report adult deaths that could be associated with flu. The state has tracked pediatric flu-associated deaths since 2005, but did not require health care providers to report adult flu-associated deaths before the Jan. 11 mandate.
Mass. doctors fear flu pandemic after over 1600 cases confirmed this week
In Massachusetts, Bay State doctors fear this year’s deadly flu season will explode into a full-blown pandemic — with influenza sickening 1,646 people just this week. U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey called on Congress to commit $1 billion toward the development of a universal flu vaccine to help wipe away the terrifying surge. “It’s less effective than some of the earlier vaccine matches,” Dr. David Hooper, Mass General’s chief of infection control, said of this year’s vaccine, adding that it has been “all hands on deck” at MGH, where there have been 90 documented cases of influenza of hospital staff since October.
Flu cases shoot up in second week of January
In Malta, flu cases in the second week of January were twice the highest number recorded in 2017 but were now on the decline, the health authorities said. According to data provided by the Directorate for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Malta had a flu vaccination uptake record this year. A total of 90,677 people had been inoculated by last month, up 28 per cent (19,928) over last year.
Flu Patients Arrive in Droves, and a Hospital Rolls Out the "Surge Tent"
In the U.S., the CDC reported Friday that flu hospitalization rates across the country were the highest ever seen at this point in the season since tracking began in 2005. Dr. Luther V. Rhodes III, Lehigh Valley Hospital’s chief epidemiologist, said he was frustrated by the flaws of the flu vaccine, which is expected to be only about 30 percent effective this year. “Even in a good year, it’s a C-plus, B-minus match, and even the high-test stuff for old people is a joke,” Dr. Rhodes said. “Tell Tony Fauci to stop saying we need a universal flu vaccine and just do it,” he added, referring to the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We need a Kennedy-esque go-to-the-moon project.”
Flu rates falling across England for first time this year
Flu rates in England are falling overall for the first time in 2018, according to figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners’ research and surveillance centre. But they added that some parts of the country are still seeing an increase in the number of presentations to primary care. Professor Simon de Lusignan, medical director for the RCGP’s research and surveillance centre, said: ‘Today’s figures show that rates of influenza-like illness presentations in general practice have flattened off, but Influenza B - the predominant strain - is still circulating, and we need to remain cautious about rates increasing again over the coming weeks.’
Flu vaccine poor match for H3N2, leading to more illness this year
In Canada, if it seems like this is a bad flu year, it’s because we’re seeing clusters of influenza A and B and cough and cold viruses happening at the same time, said Dr. Saqib Shahab,Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer. Although this year’s vaccine match is poor, it’s still important to get the flu shot, he said. “Similar to 2014-15, it’s a year where we have a poor match of the vaccine,” he said. “We expect to see a bit more in terms of ICU admissions and, unfortunately deaths, than last year, when it was an H3N2 season, but with a better vaccine match.”
New York governor: Flu season worsens each week
New York's historic flu season is continuing to worsen every week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said. Cuomo said the state confirmed more than 11,600 cases of influenza reported to the health department over the past week, with more than 2,200 people hospitalized. Cuomo last week declared a disaster emergency, allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children as young as 2 years old
CDC: Flu Hospitalization Rate "Highest We've Seen"
In the U.S., this year's flu season surpassed the last "high severity" flu season in terms of the rates of hospitalizations, with flu-related deaths and pediatric flu-associated deaths continuing to climb, CDC researchers reported. In fact, they said, it is possible that both the percentage of flu-related deaths and hospitalizations could reach or surpass other recent high severity flu seasons. Data from this week's FluView found that influenza-related cumulative hospitalizations rose to 51.4 per 100,000 -- the highest rate since CDC began tracking hospitalizations in this particular way in 2010.
Mom dies from flu after hospital sends her home
A day after being sent home from hospital with a diagnosis of flu, Tandy Harmon went back to hospital and was put on a ventilator. Three days later, the healthy 36-year-old was dead. Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt, said he wished there could be a coordinated effort to obtain blood samples from healthy young people, like Harmon, who die of the flu. "We would use our absolute best technology to find biomarkers in their blood that would point to some genetic or immune characteristics that make them different," he said.
Qom Hardest Hit by Avian Flu
Qom was the hardest-hit Iranian province during the recent outbreak of avian flu, the chairman of Iran Veterinary Organization said. Alireza Rafiei also said that more than 21 million chickens have been culled so far this year due to the outbreak. Rafiei believes that the wild spread of H5N8 strain of the virus is rooted in the fact that most chicken farms are located close to each other.
Azerbaijan talks on threat of bird flu in country
Bird flu outbreaks in Iran and Iraq pose no threat for Azerbaijan, Yolchu Hanveli, head of the press service of the State Veterinary Service under Azerbaijan’s Agriculture Ministry, said. He said that Azerbaijan has banned the imports of live poultry, poultry products, chickens and hatching eggs from Iran since spring last year. “As for the outbreak of bird flu in Iraq, Azerbaijan doesn’t import poultry and poultry products from this country,” Hanveli said.
No new H5N8 bird flu cases but Western Cape govt urges for caution
In South Africa, Western Cape farmers and bird owners should continue to exercise caution around the bird flu virus by maintaining strict biosecurity measures. "No new outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu strain have been detected since last October on previously uninfected chicken farms. The strain has, however, now been positively identified in multiple wild bird species," said Alan Winde, Western Cape MEC for Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism.
News Scan for Feb 02, 2018
In the latest highly pathogenic avian flu outbreak developments, South Africa reported several more H5N8 events involving wild birds and commercial ostriches, and Taiwan reported more H5N2 outbreaks affecting poultry farms.