HEALTH

FDA recommends H1N1 vaccine is included with next year’s inoculation

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on Monday recommended that protection against the 2009 H1N1 virus, which was first identified last April, be included in the 2010-2011 seasonal influenza vaccine starting this fall.

“That means that, barring some unforeseen circumstance, this fall, most Americans will be able to return to the traditional routine of having one flu vaccine to protect them against the major circulating flu viruses,” the FDA stated on its www.flu.gov site.  “As is always the case with seasonal vaccine, younger children who have never had a seasonal vaccine will still need two doses.”

The World Health Organization has made the same recommendation.

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WHO: H1N1 to be included in next year’s seasonal flu vaccine

BY Michael Johnsen

GENEVA During a press conference held Thursday, the World Health Organization updated the status of the novel H1N1 pandemic and announced that the novel H1N1 influenza vaccine would be incorporated into next season’s seasonal flu vaccine.

The triumvirate vaccine will include protection against the novel H1N1 virus, an H3N2 strain and a type-B virus.

“What the scientists said was that in the past year, the overwhelming number of influenza viruses that were isolated around the world were the pandemic H1N1 virus,” Keiji Fukuda, special adviser to the WHO’s director-general for pandemic influenza, told reporters. “The experts believe based on this information that these viruses will continue to be one of the dominant viruses in wide circulation in the coming fall and winter season in the northern hemisphere.”

However, substituting the pandemic H1N1 virus in place of last year’s seasonal H1N1 inoculation does not suggest that the novel H1N1 pandemic has concluded its course, Fukuda warned. “The recommendation to put the pandemic virus in the upcoming vaccine really means that this has been a dominant virus. And it is expected that it will continue to be a significant virus, circulating around the world as we head into the winter or the coming winter in 2010 and 2011.”

WHO will be convening its Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations Feb. 23, Fukuda added, noting that the meeting will be both to review the overall epidemiologic and virologic situation, and to provide some guidance to WHO as to whether we can consider ourselves in “the so-called post-peak period.”

The post-peak period is a transition period in which WHO continues to expect to see pandemic activity occur at different levels in different parts of the world, but that the worst has come to pass, Fukuda said. WHO will not be removing the “pandemic” status, however, Fukuda added. “The practical effect of indicating that we are in a post-peak period is really to give a broad signal to the world that even though we may continue to see pandemic activity that we expect that we are transitioning more towards a normal level.”

The highest levels of pandemic activity currently are occurring in parts of Eastern Europe, some parts of Northern Africa and parts of Asia.

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CDC: Flu-like illnesses driven by three U.S. regions, but numbers remain low

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA For the week ended Feb. 6, visits to doctors for influenza-like illness nationally increased slightly over the week before but remained low overall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Feb. 14.

The national increase in ILI was driven by 3-of-10 U.S. regions, the agency stated — regions 4, 7, and 9.

Region 4 is comprised of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee; region 7 is comprised of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska; and region 9 is comprised of Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada.

Very few 2009 H1N1 laboratory-confirmed hospitalizations were reported by states during the week ended Feb. 6 for most age groups.

No states reported widespread influenza activity (an increase in ILI activity in more than half of the state’s areas). Six states reported regional influenza activity (increased ILI activity in more than one but less than half of the state’s areas), including Alabama, Georgia, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Carolina.

Almost all of the influenza viruses identified so far continue to be 2009 H1N1 influenza A viruses. These viruses remain similar to the virus chosen for the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, and remain susceptible to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir with rare exception.

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