HEALTH

CDC: H1N1 virus expected to make a large impact on upcoming cough-cold-flu season

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The novel H1N1 virus is expected to make a big impact in the coming cough/cold/flu season, though just by how much is hard to determine, noted Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center For Immunization and Respiratory Diseases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a press conference held Friday.

Based on the course of the novel H1N1 virus in the spring, between 6% and 8% of people in those communities that were affected came down with the novel flu, at a time when seasonal flu incidence is relatively zero. “In a longer winter season, attack rates would probably reach higher levels than that,” Schuchat said. “Maybe two or three times as high as that.” During seasonal influenza in the winter, as many as15% of people develop influenza-like illness.

Worse-case scenario models used as pre-pandemic planning tools have accounted for as many as 40% of Americans to be infected, or to be tasked with caring for an infected relative, this fall — which is expected to cause mass absenteeism across schools and work forces.

“Much of our framing has been focused on the very severe impact where 40% of the workforce might be absent because they’re sick or staying home to care for a sick person,” Schuchat said, but that isn’t the most likely scenario. “Right now we’re not expecting that high an absentee rate, but we are expecting challenges.”

As of Friday, there were 43,771 confirmed novel H1N1 cases, including 302 deaths. But that case count is a far cry from accurately measuring the number of cases, Schuchat warned, especially as the number of states actually testing for the novel H1N1 virus drops.

“We believe there have been well over a million cases of the new H1N1 virus so far in The United States,” Schuchat said.  “And the patterns that we’re seeing right now are 20 states reporting widespread or regional influenza activity. … It’s very unusual for that kind of illness to be occurring at this time of the year.  The Novel H1N1 viruses are making up 98% of all the subtyped viruses we have, subtype influenza A viruses, and we’re seeing them dominate here in the U.S.”

The CDC also updated its vaccination recommendations Friday. “At this point, 83% of the population is recommended to get an annual flu vaccine and we recommend it for anyone who wants to reduce their risk of flu,” Schuchat said. “Unfortunately, only about 40% of the U.S. population received the flu vaccine last year, so we’re really recommending an intensifying use of this vaccine because it does protect against illness and complications like hospitalization and severe outcomes.”

Schuchat also stressed that health care workers need to get vaccinated, especially this year. “We recommend them strongly to receive the seasonal flu vaccine,” Schuchat said. “And I’m expecting when H1N1 vaccine recommendations come out it’s very, very likely health care workers will be in that group that ought to get vaccines as well.” Presently, CDC is estimating that enough novel H1N1 vaccine, if approved, may be ready by mid-October to sustain a national vaccination program.

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HHS purchases 195 million doses of H1N1 vaccine

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Nearly 200 million doses of vaccine for novel A(H1N1) influenza could become available by this fall, according to published reports.

Reuters quoted a Department of Health and Human Services official as saying that the government had bought 195 million doses of vaccine. The U.S. population is approximately 300 million.

Since the flu strain appeared earlier this year, the World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. Many health experts fear that if left unchecked, it could spark a devastating pandemic reminiscent of the 1918 Spanish flu, though that flu caused millions of deaths worldwide in part due to lack of medical technologies such as antiviral drugs.

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NCDP healthcare reform recommendations advocate for diabetes prevention, treatment and care

BY Allison Cerra

PRINCETON, N.J. The National Changing Diabetes Program, a program of Novo Nordisk, and several member associations urged President Obama and members of Congress to make the prevention, detection and treatment of diabetes, one of the nation’s most pervasive and costly diseases, a priority in reforming the U.S. healthcare system.

In an open letter to the President and lawmakers, NCDP said a national response to diabetes is required in order to transform health care and begin to ease the economic and personal burden of the disease, which is growing at an alarming rate. Today, more than 1-in-4 Americans have diabetes or pre-diabetes, and these two conditions are estimated to have cost the U.S. $218 billion in 2007 in medical care and lost productivity, according to a recent study.

Joining the NCDP in reaching out to lawmakers are the American Diabetes Association, the American College of Physicians and VSP.

“We applaud the effort to reorient our health care system to focus more on the prevention of disease, and nowhere is the need greater than with diabetes,” said Dana Haza, senior director of NCDP, an initiative created by Novo Nordisk to drive health systems change at the national and local level. “Not only does diabetes frequently result in devastating and costly complications, but diabetes also significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, amputations and depression. So tackling diabetes early will make a huge impact on our nation’s overall health care system.”

The NCDP is calling on lawmakers to ensure diabetes is a top priority for health reform, including all new or expanded initiatives in public programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP. The organization said diabetes needs to be specifically identified as a priority condition for:

  • Patient-centered care models
  • Chronic care management programs
  • Health information technology programs
  • Programs to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care
  • Prevention and health promotion initiatives
  • Quality improvement initiatives
  • Quality-based incentives
  • Medicare and Medicaid demonstrations of new care models and delivery systems

“We are facing a unique opportunity to profoundly change health care in America and improve the lives of countless people,” Haza said. “Changing diabetes is essential to health care reform.”

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