HEALTH

American Red Cross survey: Adults are worried about swine flu, taking precaution

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON One-in-three Americans are worried about the H1N1 outbreak, but more than half of the people are paying extra attention to good hygiene and preparedness as a way of protecting themselves from the virus, according to a poll released Wednesday by the American Red Cross.

The survey of 1,004 U.S. adults, taken May 1 to 4, shows that four-out-of-five of those surveyed reported that they are following the flu story very or fairly closely, and 36% said they were either very worried (8%) or somewhat worried (28%) about this flu virus.

But the flu outbreak has prompted people to take more steps to prevent the spread of the virus, with 55% saying they are paying extra attention to proper hand washing; 48% covering their coughs more, and 41% disinfecting surfaces more. In addition, more than one in three have used hand sanitizers more and made an extra effort to avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes.

“This swine flu virus continues to have the potential to spread throughout the U.S.,” stated Scott Conner, SVP American Red Cross Preparedness and Health and Safety Services. “Families, businesses and organizations should continue to follow good public health practices and to review and update their preparedness plans. … Even if this version of the swine flu virus is not as dangerous as initially feared, public health officials worry that it could come back in a more severe form later this year. The Red Cross believes that prudent preparedness steps now can help keep families healthy throughout the year.”

The survey did show that 11% said someone in the household had gone to work or school when they had the seasonal flu, and 22% indicated that they have gone to school or work within five days of having flu symptoms.

Two-in-five are misguided about flu shots as 39% incorrectly believe that a seasonal flu shot offers some protection from H1N1.

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CDC confirms 896 swine flu cases

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The number of confirmed H1N1 cases in the United States climbed to 896 cases, with two deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday morning.

“The ongoing outbreak of novel influenza A (H1N1) continues to expand in the United States,” the agency stated. “CDC expects that more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak will occur over the coming days and weeks.”

CDC has issued guidance for health care providers on the use of antiviral medications during the current outbreak. The priority use for influenza antiviral drugs is to treat severe influenza illness and people who are at high risk of serious influenza-related conditions.

And CDC has developed a PCR diagnostic test kit to detect this novel H1N1 virus and has now distributed test kits to all states in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. This increase in testing capacity is likely to result in an increase in the number of reported confirmed cases in this country, which should provide a more accurate picture of the burden of disease in the United States.

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Diatherix Laboratories releases first clinically available swine flu test

BY Michael Johnsen

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. Diatherix Laboratories on Thursday released the first clinically available test that can definitively diagnose the current strain of H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu, in six hours or less. The test is now commercially available to hospitals, private physician practices and public health departments for the rapid confirmation of suspected H1N1 patients.

Until now, it took several days to confirm a suspected H1N1 patient due to the numerous rounds of testing needed to make a definitive diagnosis, the company stated.

“Due to the highly mutative nature of the H1N1 strains, it can be very difficult to diagnose the H1N1 virus with many of the current testing methods,” stated Jian Han, laboratory director at Diatherix and faculty investigator of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. “Because our Tem-PCR technology can test for multiple genetic targets at one time, it is the only rapid molecular test that, from a nasal swab, can detect and differentiate multiple influenza strains and nine other respiratory viruses in a single test. This advanced technology provides physicians an accurate and definitive diagnosis.”

“Since the Diatherix test allows physicians to quickly differentiate H1N1 patients from those who have similar symptoms, infected patients can be provided proper antiviral therapy in a timely manner,” commented Dennis Grimaud, Diatherix CEO. “For example, if in 24 hours or less we could verify a suspected student was not infected with the H1N1 virus, this could prevent a school district from closing.”

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