New York Times Examines U.S. H1N1 Reponse
As the number of H1N1 (swine flu) cases in the U.S. continues to wane, the New York Times reflects on how federal officials handled the pandemic and other contributing factors. "The outbreak highlighted many national weaknesses: old, slow vaccine technology; too much reliance on foreign vaccine factories; some major hospitals pushed to their limits by a relatively mild epidemic," the newspaper writes. However, "the relatively cautious decisions by the nation's medical leadership contained the pandemic with minimal disruption to the economy," the New York Times adds, before highlighting several key decisions as the pandemic unfolded.
The article also notes: "The virus and the vaccine cooperated. While the former proved highly transmissible in children, it was only rarely lethal, remained susceptible to drugs and has not thus far mutated into an unpredictable monster. Vaccine supply was a problem, but one small dose was enough" (McNeil, 1/1).
Warnings From China, North Korea
The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal reports on the growing concerns among health officials in China that the Lunar New Year travel period could lead to a jump in H1N1 infections. "Tens of millions of Chinese take to the rails, roads, and air during the most important holiday of the traditional calendar, creating crowded conditions ideal for the spread of the virus. The holiday period this year runs from late January into February," the news service writes (1/3).
In related news, the Wall Street Journal reports that "North Korea has sent out a nationwide alert in recent days about the apparent worsening spread of H1N1 flu, according to an aid group with contacts in the country." The newspaper adds, "The true picture within highly restrictive North Korea is difficult to determine. Officials there couldn't be reached" (Woo, 12/31).
France Trying To Sell Unused Vaccine
Agence France-Presse reports on the recent decision of France to join several European countries in selling off H1N1 vaccine supplies. "France bought 94 million doses almost one and a half for every member of the population but so far only about five million people are recorded as having been vaccinated since the programme was launched in October. The health ministry said Qatar had already bought 300,000 doses and Egypt was negotiating to buy two million. France was also in discussions with Mexico and Ukraine, it added." The article also includes information on efforts by German officials to sell the country's H1N1 vaccines (Chaon, 1/3).
Chan Reflects On World's Response
The Wall Street Journal reports on recent comments by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan who said while global health officials' response to the H1N1 pandemic reflected progress in the world's ability to battle emerging infections in recent years, challenges remain. "Some health systems 'do not have the basic capacity to even detect and diagnose the virus. Some have the capacity, but with the huge number of patients requiring medical attention, intensive-care units and emergency rooms are really, really stretched,' [Chan] said," according to the newspaper.
"More must be done to improve vaccine technology and increase capacity enough to allow officials to mount a massive, rapid global vaccination campaign that could thwart a deadly virus, she said." Chan also expressed concerns over the spread of H1N1 into developing countries and warned of the importance in the continued monitoring of the virus (McKay, 12/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.