H1N1 FLU SURGE STARTS FULL THROTTLE…HOSPITALS UNDER SIEGE
After months of warnings and frantic preparations, the second wave of the swine flu pandemic is starting to be felt around the country, as doctors, health clinics, hospitals and schools are reporting rapidly increasing numbers of patients experiencing flu symptoms. In Austin, so many parents are rushing their children to the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas with swine flu symptoms that the hospital had to set up tents in the parking lot to cope with the onslaught. In Memphis, the Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center emergency room got so crowded with feverish, miserable youngsters that it had to do the same thing. And in Manning, S.C., a private school where an 11-year-old girl died shut down after the number of students who were out sick with similar symptoms reached nearly a third of the student body.
“H1N1 is spreading widely throughout the U.S.,” said Thomas R. Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta during a briefing on Friday. At least 26 states, including Maryland and Virginia, are now reporting widespread flu activity, up from 21 a week earlier, the CDC reported. “H1N1 activity is now widespread,” Frieden said.
While so far most cases are mild, and the health-care system is handling the load, officials say the number of people seeking treatment for the flu is unprecedented for this time of year. Even though some parts of the Southeast that started seeing a surge of cases first now seem to be showing a decline in cases, that could be a temporary reprieve, Frieden said. And other parts of the country are likely just starting to feel the second wave.
Although no hospitals in the Washington region have yet had to activate their emergency plans, many are reporting an increase in patients, as are individual doctors. “Some of that is because of the swine flu and some of it is because of phobia about the flu,” said Steven Mumbauer, a Waynesboro, Va., pediatrician. “But we definitely are seeing sicker kids and have treated more kids with pneumonia than we typically would this time of the year. There have been some days where we’ve been absolutely swamped.”
At the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, some children have gotten so sick that they have required intensive care, and that includes some children with no other health problems. “We have some very sick children,” said Ina Stephens, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the hospital. “I’m concerned it’s just the tip of the iceberg — that we’re just seeing the beginning of it.”
CDC FLYERS, BROCHURES, FACT SHEETS – FLU SEASON PRINT MATERIALS
CDC has just released a great compliment of Flyers, Brochures and Fact Sheets addressing H1N1 and seasonal flu recommendations. All materials are free for download—no printed versions are available. They may be printed on a standard office printer, or you may use a commercial printer. These would be great additions to your seasonal flu vaccine program at your company!
2009 H1N1 INFLUENZA VACCINE SAFETY
The buzz on the Internet sites on the H1N1 vaccine is endless…What is hype? What is real? Some of the sites are just crazy! Conspiracy theories and bizarre ideas about the “Pharma Companies” creating this disease so they can make a vaccine…wow! Incredible imaginations. Vaccines have done a tremendous good when dealing with infectious diseases worldwide – there is a host of vaccine-preventable diseases…Small pox, Polio and Hepatitis are just a few diseases that have been either eradicated or significantly reduced because of these life-saving drugs. When reading about any health issue, look over a broad selection of websites and look for an unbiased view (as best as you can find out there) before you make you decisions. As with any medications there is a potential for side effects. All medications should be carefully considered…whether it be aspirin, antibiotics or a vaccine.
How will the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines be monitored for safety?
The CDC and FDA closely monitor the safety of seasonal influenza and other vaccines licensed for use in the United States in cooperation with state and local health departments, healthcare providers, and other partners. The purpose of vaccine safety monitoring is timely identification of clinically significant adverse events following immunization that may be of public health concern. Adverse events, or possible side effects, following immunization may be coincidental to (meaning occurring around the same time but not related to vaccination) or caused by vaccination. The purpose of vaccine safety monitoring is timely identification of clinically significant adverse events following immunization that might be of public health concern.
CDC and its partners will use multiple systems to monitor the safety of 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine. Two of the primary systems that will be used to monitor the safety of these vaccines after they are in widespread use is: the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which is jointly operated with FDA, and the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) Project.
- Vaccine Adverse Event Report System (VAERS)
VAERS is a national program managed by both CDC and FDA to monitor the safety of all vaccines licensed in the United States. Healthcare providers are encouraged to voluntarily report possible adverse events of concern after vaccination, even if they are not certain that the vaccine caused the event. Anyone can file a VAERS report. VAERS relies on information included in these reports to monitor for clinically serious adverse events or health problems that follow vaccination. Generally, VAERS cannot determine if an adverse event was caused by a vaccine but can help determine if further investigations are needed. FDA and CDC use VAERS data to help identify potential clinically serious vaccine adverse events or health outcomes. If concerns are identified in VAERS, usually further investigation is needed. One important system used to further evaluate concerns identified in VAERS is the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) Project. More information about VAERS is available at http://vaers.hhs.gov/.
- Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) Project
The VSD Project is a vaccine safety system used to both identify and confirm adverse outcomes after immunization. This project is a collaboration between CDC and eight large managed care organizations (MCOs), in which comprehensive medical information is collected on approximately 9 million people. The VSD project monitors their data weekly for certain adverse events that could be associated with newly licensed vaccines. VSD conducts studies of vaccine safety adverse events and health outcomes that may arise with any vaccine.
Additionally, CDC will work with numerous partners including other federal agencies, state and local health departments, professional organizations, and academic institutions to actively follow individuals after vaccination to monitor for any potential adverse events.
Will the 2009 H1N1 vaccines that are currently recommended contain adjuvants?
No. According to current federal plans, only unadjuvanted vaccines will be used in the United States during the 2009 flu season. This includes all of the 2009 H1N1 and seasonal influenza vaccines that will be available for children and adults in both the injectable and nasal spray formulations. None of these influenza vaccines will contain adjuvants. 2009 H1N1 vaccines with adjuvants are being studied to determine if they are safe and effective. Experts will review these data when they are available. There is no plan at this time to recommend a 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine with an adjuvant.
Will the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine contain thimerosal?
The 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines that FDA is licensing (approving) will be manufactured in several formulations. Some will come in multi-dose vials and will contain thimerosal as a preservative. Multi-dose vials of seasonal influenza vaccine also contain thimerosal to prevent potential contamination after the vial is opened.
Some 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines will be available in single-dose units, which will not require the use of thimerosal as a preservative. In addition, the live-attenuated version of the vaccine, which is administered intranasally (through the nose), is produced in single-units and will not contain thimerosal. For more information on thimerosal.
Will the benefits of the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines outweigh the risks? Is this something I should talk to my healthcare provider about?
Currently the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus (sometimes called “swine flu”) virus seems to be causing serious health outcomes for:
- Healthy young people from birth through age 24;
- Pregnant women; and
- Adults 25 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions.
Seasonal influenza vaccines are highly effective in preventing influenza disease. The expectation is that a vaccine against 2009 H1N1 influenza would probably work in a similar fashion to the seasonal influenza vaccines. CDC and FDA believe that the benefits of vaccination with the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine will far outweigh the risks.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza infection and its complications. This is the reason that CDC, national health organizations, and healthcare providers intensively promote vaccination for seasonal influenza, and the reason why so much work is being done to have a vaccine available in the fall for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.
Influenza vaccines do not protect against other viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. Even after you are vaccinated, it is still important to wash your hands well and often, to cover your coughs and sneezes, and to stay home if you are sick.
CDC and FDA encourage you to ask your healthcare provider any questions you may have about the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine and the seasonal influenza vaccines that will be available during the 2009-2010 influenza season. Your healthcare provider is an excellent source for information on the benefits and risks of vaccination for protection against 2009 H1N1 influenza for you, your children, and other family members.
CDC is working continuously to provide the public with the most current information about 2009 H1N1 influenza and the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine and its safety.
Will there be a possibility of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) cases following the 2009 H1N1 vaccine?
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disease in which the body damages its own nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. It is not fully understood why some people develop GBS, but it is believed that stimulation of the body’s immune system may play a role in its development. Infection with the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni, which can cause diarrhea, is one of the most common risk factors for GBS. People can also develop GBS after having the flu or other infections (such as cytomegalovirus and Epstein Barr virus). On very rare occasions, they may develop GBS in the days or weeks following receiving a vaccination.
In 1976, there was a small risk of GBS following influenza (swine flu) vaccination (approximately 1 additional case per 100,000 people who received the swine flu vaccine). That number of GBS cases was slightly higher than what is normally seen in the population, whether or not people were vaccinated. Since then, numerous studies have been done to evaluate if other flu vaccines were associated with GBS. In most studies, no association was found, but two studies suggested that approximately 1 additional person out of 1 million vaccinated people might be at risk for GBS associated with the seasonal influenza vaccine. FDA and CDC will be closely monitoring reports of serious problems following the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines, including GBS.
What is the best source of information for 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine safety?
In addition to talking openly with your healthcare providers, CDC also encourages you to stay informed by checking the following Web sites often for the most up-to-date news and information: www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu and www.flu.gov.