HEALTH

CDC updates swine flu count

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States now totals 109, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated in an update released Thursday morning. South Carolina has added 10 cases to the tally, brining the number of states affected to 11.

The state-by-state count so far includes Arizona (1), California (14), Indiana (1), Kansas (2), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (1), Nevada (1), New York (50), Ohio (1), South Carolina (10) and Texas (26), with one confirmed swine flu death in Texas.

“In response to an intensifying outbreak in the United States and internationally caused by a new influenza virus of swine origin, the World Health Organization raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 5 on April 29, 2009,” the CDC stated. A Phase 5 alert is a “strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.”

CDC’s Division of the Strategic National Stockpile continues to send antiviral drugs, personal protective equipment and respiratory protection devices to all 50 states and U.S. territories to help them respond to the outbreak, the agency stated. The swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir).

In addition, the federal government and manufacturers have begun the process of developing a vaccine against this new virus, CDC stated.

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Pain-reliever removed from AAFES retailers

BY Michael Johnsen

DALLAS Army & Air Force Exchange Service retailers are removing aspirin from their shelves per a Department of Defense mandate.

AAFES is removing the analgesic from its pain-reliever lineup in an effort to reduce blood loss in the event of an injury for those soldiers operating in combat zones.

According to the memorandum from the Assistant Secretary of Defense, aspirin in combat zones is to be controlled. Furthermore, the memo states that “there should be no over-the-counter access through AAFES outlets or other Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities.”

All personnel, military and civilian, deploying to a combat zone are advised to stop taking aspirin at least 10 days prior to departure, unless advised by their healthcare provider to continue use, AAFES stated.

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Swine flu may increase demands for POC flu tests

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK The current situation with a possible swine flu pandemic may increase demand for rapid point-of-care flu tests, tests that would ascertain whether or not a person was ill with a traditional flu as opposed to the swine flu, market research publisher Kalorama asserted Monday.

“Although there is no marketed POC test specifically for the A/H1N1 [swine] strain at this point, it is likely common flu tests on the market will see increased usage,” stated Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information. “Physicians will feel an urgency to determine if a patient simply has the more common flu, and given the circumstances, they may not want to wait for central lab testing. POC tests are also more effective when patients see the doctor earlier, as they are likely to do when they hear of the epidemic, or crisis.”

The influenza rapid testing market has morphed from an experimental area with a few products, into a considerable component of the entire point-of-care infectious disease market, which Kalorama Information values at over $500 million annually in its new report “World Markets for Point of Care Diagnostics.”

Quidel leads the market for influenza testing with its Rapid Vue product, a rapid chromatographic immunoassay which provides results in 10 minutes from a sample collected via a nose or throat swab. Competitors in influenza testing include Becton Dickinson’s Directigen EZ Flu A+B test, Inverness Medical’s Biax Now and Meridan Biosciences TRU FLU.

In a conference call held Tuesday, Becton Dickinson noted that there has not yet been any increase in demand for its influenza diagnostics.

“The type of products that you can expect to be potentially in higher demand [during a pandemic event], although we’re not necessarily seeing much of it yet, would be rapid flu tests where there’s already an increased demand as you might expect from Mexico,” stated Gary Cohen, BD EVP. “That’s not a large business for us but the demand is already going up. And also immunization devices that would accompany either injectable antivirals or immunizations for the flu strain as injectables are developed, as flu vaccine is developed around these strains.”

Prior to this weekend, point-of-care influenza diagnostics had not been doing well, Kalorama acknowledged.

“All of these companies reported first quarter test sales were down as the result of a weak flu season this winter. It’s probable that this outbreak will boost revenues for these companies, and the stock market has already reacted to this possibility,” the company stated.

Carlson added, “In a crisis atmosphere like this, the benefit of ‘knowing now’ that point-of-care provides is made clear. This could be an important showcase of the need for faster testing, and that is critical for the long-term success of POC testing products in all of infectious disease.”

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