H1N1 Flu Cases Increase Worldwide, World Health Assembly To Discuss Next Move
Over the weekend, the numbers of H1N1 (swine) influenza cases and related-deaths around the world continued to climb, the New York Times reports (McNeil, New York Times, 5/17). Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura on Monday said during a press briefing that Japan has 125 confirmed cases of swine flu, Bloomberg reports. (Lauerman/Pettypiece, Bloomberg, 5/18).
The new cases mostly occurring in high school students from Hyogo and Osaka (MacInnis/Reynolds, Reuters, 5/18) represent a jump from the four H1N1 cases confirmed in Japan last week, according to the New York Times (New York Times, 5/17). Forbes writes, "As none of the students had traveled overseas recently, officials and experts are now investigating the possibility of group infections" (Kwok, Forbes, 5/18). In response, "Japanese authorities ordered more than 1,000 schools and kindergartens near the cities of Kobe and Osaka to shut down. There were no confirmed cases in Tokyo," the New York Times writes (New York Times, 5/17).
Osaka Governor Toru Hashimo on Sunday convened a flu task force meeting, where he "ask[ed] facilities such as movie theaters to suspend operations to prevent the spread of the flu," Kyodo News/Japan Today reports (Kyodo News/Japan Today, 5/18). "We know that there are some students who have gotten sick. Similar to Europe, U.K., Spain, or New York, we are looking very carefully at the situation," Keiji Fukuda, WHO's assistant director-general of health, security and environment, said, AFP/Google.com reports (AFP/Google.com, 5/18).
Health officials on Sunday announced that a New York City school administrator died from H1N1 flu, Bloomberg reports. The principal's death has led to the closure of 11 New York schools, up from six last week (Bloomberg, 5/18). Also on Sunday, Chile reported its first confirmed cases of the swine flu, VOA News reports (VOA News, 5/18). The first cases of H1N1 flu appeared over the weekend in Turkey and India as well (New York Times, 5/18). The WHO on Monday confirmed that 40 countries have reported 8,829 cases of H1N1. A full list of country cases and deaths is available here (WHO Influenza A(H1N1) - update 32, 5/18).
The AFP/Google.com reports that as part of this week's World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting, the 193 WHO member states on Monday will address how to handle the H1N1 virus (AFP/Google.com, 5/18).
Intergovernmental WHO Meeting Ends With Unresolved Agreement For Virus Sharing
A two-day intergovernmental WHO meeting ended on Saturday "with a consensus on most issues, but left data-sharing between laboratories and intellectual property rights on viruses unresolved," Deutsche Welle reports (Deutsche Welle, 5/17). The annual intergovernmental meeting began back in 2006, after avian influenza led the WHO to recognize the need to "ensure that virus samples would be circulated to laboratories and drug firms around the world so that they could produce a vaccine against the disease," Reuters writes, adding, "The main sticking point remains the wording of a standard agreement on transferring material, and some intellectual property questions. Developing countries wanted a comprehensive material transfer agreement, while rich countries were against any agreement but eventually settled for a simple one." The group decided to "forward a framework agreement on sharing influenza viruses and on access to vaccine benefits including its gaps" to the WHA, which will decide how to move forward in resolving the agreement further (Lynn, Reuters, 5/16).
GlaxoSmithKline, Baxter Start Taking Vaccine Orders; UN Secretary-General To Meet With Manufacturers
GlaxoSmithKline on Friday announced that several countries have already ordered stockpiles of H1N1 vaccines to be produced as soon as the WHO turns over the "vaccine's key ingredient," AP/Google.com reports (AP/Google.com, 5/15). Britain, France, Belgium and Finland are among several countries that expressed interest in receiving swine flu vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline, according to a company press release (GlaxoSmithKline press release, 5/15).
AP/Google.com writes, "About a dozen developed countries, including Canada, France and the United States, have struck advance deals with vaccine producers like GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Sanofi Aventis to provide pandemic vaccine as soon as their factories start producing it" (AP/Google.com, 5/15). The British government on Friday announced that it had cut a deal with the vaccine maker Baxter International, Inc., to produce up to 90 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine, the Chicago Tribune reports (Jaspen, Chicago Tribune, 5/15).
Reuters examines how Asia is not as prepared as it wants to be when it comes to its ability to produce an H1N1 vaccine (Lyn, Reuters, 5/18).
At this point, the WHO has not finalized if and when H1N1 vaccine production will begin. Following a WHO meeting with vaccine makers last week, WHO's Fukada said more time was needed to decide whether vaccine makers should move from seasonal flu vaccine production to swine flu vaccines and to finalize the number of vaccines needed (Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report, 5/15). According to the AP/Google.com, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will meet with senior representatives from vaccine companies on Tuesday (Engeler/Yamaguchi, AP/Google.com, 5/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.