HEALTH

CDC reports decrease in flu activity

BY Allison Cerra

ATLANTA Although 43 states have reported widespread influenza activity for the week ended Nov. 14, numbers appear to be dropping, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted Friday.

In its weekly situational update, the CDC reported that the number of states reporting widespread activity of the H1N1 virus dropped to 43 from 46 in the past week. Additionally, influenza-like illnesses nationally decreased again to 5.5%. This is the third consecutive week of national decreases after four consecutive weeks of sharp increases.

On a regional level, the percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illnesses ranged from 2.6% to 7.9% during week 45, and decreased in all 10 surveillance regions, compared with the previous week. All 10 regions, however, reported a proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illnesses above their region-specific baseline levels (2.3%).

“Influenza is unpredictable, and it is so early in the year to have this much disease. We don’t know if these declines will persist, what the slope will be, whether we’ll have a long decline or it will start to go up again,” said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Meanwhile, there have been reports of cases that feature a mutated version of the virus, which apparently is resistant to antiviral Tamiflu, making the disease much more severe. Schuchat, however, said the mutation is no reason for alarm.

“I don’t think it has the public health implications that we would wonder about,” she said, noting that some patients have gotten severely ill, including developing pneumonia, after being infected with strains of the virus without the mutation.

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Report finds influenza incidence rates lower among those immunized last year

BY Michael Johnsen

SILVER SPRING, Md. According to a report prepared in October by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, those individuals who received their flu shots last year may be better protected against the novel H1N1 influenza virus as compared with those who did not get inoculated.

The study was presented Thursday at the 58th annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Washington.

By the beginning of 2009, influenza-like illness and pneumonia and influenza incidence rates were lower among immunized service members compared to those unimmunized, the agency stated. The difference in these rates increased greatly after week 20, corresponding to the emergence of the novel H1N1 virus.

According to published reports, last year’s seasonal flu vaccine made it 62% less likely that a service-member would be hospitalized because of H1N1 virus this year; and 42% less likely to have consulted a doctor for an ILI or P&I.

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NADDI cracks down on methamphetamine with new initiative

BY Michael Johnsen

LOUISVILLE, Ky. The National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators on Friday announced a new initiative in the war on methamphetamine: the National Precursor Log Exchange, a multistate electronic tracking program that enforces purchase limitations of the decongestant pseudoephedrine in real time at the point of sale.

NADDI, along with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, introduced the program here during an early-morning press conference. Joining Kentucky in adopting NPLEx were Illinois and Louisiana.

“Rarely are states able to easily work together to tackle a problem that crosses state lines,” stated Charlie Cichon, director of NADDI. “We believe dozens of states will adopt NPLEx over the next several years, making it more difficult for these common medicines to be used illegally.”

The NPLEx system is being offered as an alternative to introducing legislation requiring a prescription for the sale of PSE. “If states are wanting to make this a prescription drug, we are coming in and saying, ‘Here is a tool [being offered to] law enforcement at no cost.’”

The program is being entirely funded by cough-cold manufacturers and accordingly will be offered to states with critical meth lab problems nationwide at no cost.

“CHPA recognizes that home meth labs are dangerous and toxic for communities, as well as a burden for law enforcement, and is pleased to lend its support to aggressive measures to stop domestic meth production,” the association stated Friday morning. “We believe that electronic tracking is the only solution that allows for real-time, stop sale of these medicines illegally diverted to manufacture meth while maintaining consumer access to safe and effective cold and allergy medicines.”

The technology for NPLEx is based on a system that was developed and tested in Kentucky in 2005, and the program was expanded statewide in Kentucky in late 2007.

NPLEx provides law enforcement agencies across the country with free access to the multi-state electronic log of cold and allergy medicine purchases. The system helps retailers stay in compliance with state and federal laws that place restrictions on these medicines.

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