HEALTH

CDC confirms second death from swine flu

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday morning confirmed a second death attributed to the H1N1 virus out of the state of Texas. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 642 across 41 states.

The second death was a 33-year-old pregnant schoolteacher with chronic underlying health problems, according to published reports, though no detail was shed on what those health problems might be.

While the total number of cases currently stands at 642, there may be more than 450 additional cases CDC acting director Richard Besser reported Tuesday during a news conference. “We expect that as we get these test kits out to state labs and as they get up to speed from some of the backlog they’ve had on testing will go away and we’ll see a big bump in the number of cases,” he said. “That doesn’t reflect transmission as much as it reflects we’re catching up with the testing.”

So far, the median age of confirmed cases is 16 years, ranging from 3 months to 81 years old, however, 62% of cases so far have been in patients less than 18-years-old. There have been 35 known hospitalizations as of Tuesday, with one death. The second death occurred Tuesday evening.

“We are seeing and expect to continue to see virus transmissions both around the United States and around the globe,” Besser said.  “And given what we know from seasonal flu, we would expect that we would continue to see additional hospitalizations and it’s likely we would see additional deaths.”

And while the number of increasing cases may be alarming, the CDC has a better handle on how virulent the virus may be, prompting the agency to rescind its advisory that schools should close for a two-week period if any student or teacher is diagnosed with H1N1 influenza.

“We have some information about the virus that shows it does not contain some of the factors that are associated or were associated with previous pandemics,” Besser said. “We continue to gain information about severity in this country.And what we’re seeing is severity that mirrors what we’ve tended to see with seasonal flu.”

Looking forward, tracking of the virus will now move to the southern hemisphere, which is entering its influenza season.

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SDI develops Web site for asthma patients

BY Alaric DeArment

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. A company that develops healthcare data products has launched a new Web site offering advice to people with asthma in recognition of World Asthma Day, on Tuesday.

The Web site, Azma.com, offers advice and tools including four-day air quality forecasts, 30-day history for all U.S. ZIP codes, alert emails, two-city asthma comparison tools and desktop add-ons with one-day and four-day air quality forecasts.

“According to a recent report by the American Lung Association, asthma prevalence appears to have stabilized, possibly indicating an improved level of disease management,” stated SDI CEO Andrew Kress. “Building on our experience providing actionable disease information around allergies and flu to patients, we created Azma.com to aid in the disease management by providing a resource for asthma sufferers and their families for up-to-date, relevant information that they can turn to 24 hours a day for advice and instruction on managing their asthma.”

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Study suggests obesity may cause allergies in children

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON A new study released by the National Institutes of Health Monday indicates there may be yet another reason to reduce childhood obesity — it may help prevent allergies.

The study published in the May issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that obese children and adolescents are at increased risk of having some kind of allergy, especially to a food.

“We found a positive association between obesity and allergies,” stated Darryl Zeldin, acting clinical director at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and senior author on the paper.

The researchers analyzed data on children and young adults ages 2 to19 from a new national dataset designed to obtain information about allergies and asthma.

“While the results from this study are interesting, they do not prove that obesity causes allergies. More research is needed to further investigate this potential link,” Zeldin said.

“The signal for allergies seemed to be coming mostly from food allergies,” commented NIEHS researcher Stephanie London, a co-author on the study. “The rate of having a food allergy was 59% higher for obese children.”

“As childhood obesity rates rise, NIEHS will continue to work to determine how environmental factors affect this epidemic,” added Linda Birnbaum, NIEHS director. “Seeing a possible link between obesity and allergies provides additional motivation for undertaking the challenge of reducing childhood obesity.”

The study was funded by NIEHS and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, both parts of the National Institutes of Health.

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