Stories tagged A/H1N1

We have other things to worry about now, obviously (MJ, anyone?), but, um, the H1N1 swine flu virus is still out there, and some scientists are still pretty concerned about it.

A new study seems to show that the 2009 A/H1N1 virus might be significantly more dangerous than we had previously thought. While regular ol' seasonal flu generally just infects cells in your upper respiratory tract, scientists have found that H1N1 can thrive deep in your lungs. That means that it's more likely to cause pneumonia. Similar characteristics in the infamous 1918 swine flu exacerbated the danger of that outbreak. So, you know, don't start sticking your fingers in other peoples' mouths and then rubbing them on your eyes again just yet.

First H1N1 Death in Minnesota.

by Anonymous on Jun. 16th, 2009

The first death in Minnesota of the H1N1 or also known as the Swine Flu. The five year old girl died on June 15, 2009. The very young girl did have multiple medical conditions before becoming ill.
To find more on this go to this link.
http://kstp.com/news/stories/S979151.shtml?cat=206

The WHO has raised the swine flu pandemic alert to the highest level. (A/H1N1 is the first flu pandemic in 41 years.) This doesn't mean the disease is more dangerous, just that it's in more places and continuing to spread. As of this morning, 28,774 confirmed A/H1N1 cases have been reported in 74 countries, with 144 deaths. (These counts are not precise anymore, however, because many people who catch this flu are recovering at home without being tested.)

Watch/listen to the press conference

Map of the outbreak

BBC coverage

May
31
2009

Vaccine production
Vaccine productionCourtesy AJC1

US pays billion dollars for developing new flu vaccine

The latest information from Pandemicflu.gov explains the next steps toward an H1N1 influenza vaccine.

BARDA

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is part of the Dept. on HHS, has an official "fact sheet" explaining 2009 H1N1 Vaccine Development Activities.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is directing nearly $1.1 billion in existing preparedness funds to manufacture two important parts of a vaccine for the Strategic National Stockpile, to produce small amounts of potential vaccine for research, and to perform clinical research over the summer. HHS press release

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by tricking the immune system into thinking it has been infected with the H1N1 swine flu virus so that it creates antibodies against it. The vaccine is a hybrid of the virus which is similar enough that our immune system will develop antibodies against a specific virus.

How is swine flu vaccine made?

We are now starting step 4.

  1. obtain typical sample of novel H1N1 virus
  2. reproduce sample in eggs
  3. Mix H1N1 and PR8 viruses into eggs and allowing a hybrid strain to be created through a natural re-assortment of their genes
  4. Multiply seed virus into millions of doses
  5. test virus in people to determine the most effective and safest dose to generate a strong immune response to the 2009-H1N1 virus
  6. decide whether to use adjuvants
  7. mass produce vaccine

What is an adjuvant?

An adjuvant is an additive to a vaccine that helps to generate a stronger immune response to the vaccine. When using an adjuvant it is often possible to reduce the size of the vaccine dose and the number of doses needed. Special permission from the Food and Drug Administration will be needed for the adjuvants to be used, as neither one is currently approved for use in this country. Washington Post

Can vaccines be made without using eggs?

"The federal government has given the vaccine industry $1.3 billion to spur a shift from growing the viruses in eggs to growing them in stainless steel tanks containing mammalian cells.

Such cell culture could shave a few weeks off the process, experts estimate, and would eliminate the need for millions of eggs on short notice. Some vaccines made in cells have been approved in Europe but not in the United States." New York Times

Learn more about making swine flu vaccine

How to make a swine flu vaccine BBC
CDC May 28 Press Briefing transcript
Flu vaccine development questions and answers BARDA

May
24
2009

Antigenic shift in flu viruses: is when at least two different strains of a virus combine to form a new subtype having a mixture of the surface antigens of the two original strains.
Antigenic shift in flu viruses: is when at least two different strains of a virus combine to form a new subtype having a mixture of the surface antigens of the two original strains.Courtesy National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Model of H1N1 flu virus takes shape

Genetic analysis of the new H1N1 virus shows that the hemagglutinin (the H in H1N1) and two other genes are from the 1918 Spanish flu virus and have been living in pigs ever since. Studies also show that the neuraminidase (the N in H1N1) segment is from the Eurasian swine flu virus that probably leaped from birds to pigs in about 1979.

The new virus differs in 21 of 387 amino acids from the H5N1 virus and the 1918 Spanish flu (also an H1N1 virus). - Singapore’s Agency for Science and Technology Research report in Biology Direct.

Shape shifting viral surface challenges vaccination success

"Viruses isolated from patients during the first two weeks of the current outbreak already have changes on the outer surface on the neuraminidase protein that could interfere with antibodies against the virus or alter the effectiveness of future vaccines. But none of the changes have altered the parts of the protein targeted by antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu or Relenza." Science News

Learn more
If you click through to the source article in Science News, you will see a great three dimensional model of the influenza A/H1N1 virus with the origin of each of the virus's pieces explained.

May
17
2009

Cold noses are good for preventing bird flu

Don't let your children do this
Don't let your children do thisCourtesy KnOizKi

A recent study may explain why the bird flu has not become a pandemic. The human nose is too cold. Avian flu viruses prefer 104 degree F. The temperature in our noses is usually less than 90 degrees F. Critics of the study point out that it was only done in petri dishes so may not be an accurate reflection of what happens in humans.

Since the bird flu virus re-emerged in 2003, there have been only 423 reported cases. If the viruses manage to get into the lower lung, however, they replicate so quickly that 6 out of 10 victims (258) died.

The normal seasonal flu kills only 1 out of 1000 victims (250,000 to 500,000 people per year world wide).

Figuring the odds of a deadly mutation

Please comment what you think about this logic.

"When more people get the flu, the chances of a deadly mutation increases. Say the chance of a deadly mutation is one in a million. If 10,000 people get sick, the odds are 10,000/1,000,000 or 1/100. If a million people get sick the chance of a deadly mutation is almost a sure thing."

The new H1N1 virus appears to be more contagious

The percentage of contacts who catch the regular variety of flu from an infected person is between 5 and 15 percent, but current estimates for H1N1 being spread range from 22 to 33 per cent (according to WHO). Reuters via Yahoo News

As of May 15, 2009, 34 countries have officially reported 7520 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection. World Health Organization

An intriguing mutation has been detected

The virus isolated from the second swine flu patient in the Netherlands has an intriguing mutation in a gene called PB2 that could mean that the virus has become better at spreading from person to person, a team of Dutch researchers reported on Friday on ProMED, a monitoring system for disease outbreaks. But they're the first to acknowledge that it could also be a red herring. Science Insider

You can make a difference

If you can behave in ways that prevent you from catching or spreading this new type of H1N1 flu, you will minimize the odds its changing into a more deadly form.

How would you direct research in a flu epidemic?
How would you direct research in a flu epidemic?Courtesy CDC
Imagine you're the director of the
Center for Disease Control, the US government’s top job for handling public health concerns.

Suddenly you’re faced with a new strain of flu, and must make a series of decisions over the course of a year on how to handle the outbreak. What will you do? Head on over to the Science Buzz swine flu feature and play the, "Swine flu: what would you do?" simulation. Test your decision-making ability to handling a possible flu crisis. See how your decisions compare with others who’ve tried this activity.

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced today that they're attributing a second US death to the A/H1N1 virus. The Cameron County woman, who had unspecified underlying health problems, died earlier this week. The CDC also reported that, so far, 35 people have been hospitalized in the US. However, the new flu virus doesn't seem as dangerous as public health officials feared last week. And because of that, and because the strategy no longer seems to be containing the spread of the disease, federal officials rescinded the recommendation that schools close when they discover suspected cases of the flu.

Official CDC case counts

Apr
26
2009

Pandemic prevention in Mexico City
Pandemic prevention in Mexico CityCourtesy Chupacabras

No mass at Cathedral of Mexico City Sunday

In addition to churches, Mexico closed schools, museums, libraries and theaters, hoping to contain the outbreak of a swine flu variety that is killing people. Officials say as many as 81 people have died and more than 1,300 others are sickened from a new type of flu.

The virus contains genetic pieces from four different flu viruses; North American swine influenza, North American avian influenza, human influenza A N1H1, and swine influenza viruses found in Asia and Europe.

Swine flu symptoms

Symptoms of the flu-like illness include a fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius), body aches, coughing, a sore throat, respiratory congestion and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea. Click this link for more key facts about swine influenza (swine flu).

Global swine flu alert

China, Russia and Taiwan plan to put anyone with symptoms of the deadly virus under quarantine. Ten students from New Zealand who took a school trip to Mexico "likely" caught this swine flu. Four possible cases of swine flu are currently under investigation in France. More than 100 students at the St. Francis Preparatory School, in Queens, New York recently began suffering a fever, sore throat and aches and pains. Some of them had recently been in Mexico.

"The United States government is working with the World Health Organization and other international partners to assure early detection and warning and to respond as rapidly as possible to this threat," Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the CDC, said during a Friday afternoon press briefing.

How to track illnesses globally

There are several useful online resources that track health information and disease outbreaks.

  1. The World Health Organization (WHO) has an Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR) webpage.

    As of 26 April 2009, the United States Government has reported 20 laboratory confirmed human cases of swine influenza A/H1N1 (8 in New York, 7 in California, 2 in Texas, 2 in Kansas and 1 in Ohio).

  2. HealthMap is a website that aggregates news feeds from the WHO, Google News, ProMED, and elsewhere to map out all of the disease outbreaks. (Click the box in front of influenza under "Diseases, last 30 days" to see just flu cases.)

What is a pandemic?

The WHO's pandemic alert level is currently up to phase 3. The organization said the level could be raised to phase 4 if the virus shows sustained ability to pass from human to human. Phase 5 would be reached if the virus is found in at least two countries in the same region.

"The declaration of phase 5 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," WHO said. Associated Press

Phase 6 would indicate a full-scale global pandemic.

Sources: