KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Experts: Treat Swine Flu Quickly, Even Without Verification

The World Health Organization concluded a three-day meeting on H1N1 (swine flu) in Washington, D.C., on Friday, where health experts issued recommendations that patients with symptoms of H1N1 and pneumonia be treated quickly with antivirals, even before the results of H1N1 tests are complete, the San Francisco Chronicle blog, "ChronRX" reports (Allday, 10/16).

"Experts stress that most people who get the H1N1 virus either never get sick or recover easily. But some young adults, possibly especially women, are falling seriously ill at an unexpectedly rapid pace and are showing up in intensive care units and dying in unusually high numbers, they say," the Washington Post reports. "Although why a minority of patients become so sick remains a mystery, new research indicates that H1N1 is different from typical seasonal flu viruses in crucial ways -- most notably in its ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and cause viral pneumonia" (Stein, 10/17).

On Friday, the CDC announced the number of H1N1 vaccine doses to arrive in the U.S. by the end of October would be about 10 million short – "about 25% fewer than expected" – due to slower than anticipated vaccine production, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Despite the current low production, however, there are no plans to use adjuvants -- chemicals added to increase the immune response to the antigen -- to extend the supply of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine, said Dr. Jesse Goodman of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration" (Maugh/Ellingwood, 10/17).

"Yields for vaccine are lower than would be hoped," Anne Schuchat, of the CDC, said during a telephone press conference, Reuters reports" (Fox, 10/16). According to the Associated Press, "[W]hat CDC calls the 2009 H1N1 flu is causing widespread disease in 41 states, and about 6 percent of all doctor visits are for flu-like illness - levels not normally seen until much later in the fall" (Neergaard, 10/17).

Meanwhile, the Hill reports that in "the Senate, the topic has accomplished the rare feat of uniting Democrats and Republicans - members of both parties are promoting vaccinations regardless of the rhetoric," the newspaper writes (Rushing, 10/18).

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