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Posts Tagged ‘Flu’

Mothers-to-be 'are refusing swine flu jab' over safety fears

Vaccine: Low take up among people most at risk, found survey

Millions of people are shunning the swine flu jab over fears about its safety, a survey of GPs suggests.

It found that fewer than half of those offered the vaccination are taking it up – with pregnant women the most likely to say no.

Anyone in ‘at risk’ groups between the ages of six months and 65 years – 11 million people in all – are being offered the jab. But doctors said that just 46 per cent were taking it.

One GP said as few as one in 20 pregnant women had been vaccinated, even though studies have shown they are four times as likely to end up in hospital if they catch the virus.

The survey, in Pulse magazine, revealed many believed the virus is just too mild to warrant having the vaccine.

But last night the Department of Health said it was vital that everyone who is offered the vaccine should have it, because swine flu can be deadly for a small number of people.

Even if they did not fall ill, they could pass the disease on to someone else who is more vulnerable.

The DoH rejected concerns over the safety of the vaccine – saying it has been through the same rigorous tests as the seasonal flu jabs which are used every year without significant incident. So far in the UK, 182 people have died from swine flu, and last week there were an estimated 64,000 new cases, down from the previous week.

The survey of 107 GPs, published in Pulse magazine, follows others which suggest many doctors and nurses were also forgoing the vaccine.

In the latest poll, doctors estimated the take-up rate among their patients was 46 per cent. Only 37 per cent believed they would vaccinate more than half of their at-risk patients.

Dr Chris Udenze, who works in Nottingham, said: ‘In all the pregnant women we’ve offered it to, I think only about one in 20 has agreed.’

A GP in Kensington said he was encountering ‘considerable scepticism’ from pregnant women. And Dr Sharon Shmueli, a GP in Swindon, said fewer than 25 per cent of pregnant patients at her practice had chosen to be vaccinated.

The DoH has contracts with two major drugs firms to provide enough vaccine for the entire population.

Richard Hoey, editor of Pulse, said: ‘Many patients, like a substantial number of doctors, are unconvinced there is sufficient evidence that swine flu vaccination is safe and necessary.

‘The Government needs to be much clearer about the safety data it has gathered on the vaccine so far.

‘It also needs to publish a full justification for the priority risks groups it has picked out for vaccination, to convince the public that the people being prioritised really are those who will benefit most.’

Deadly second wave of swine flu 'on its way', scientists warn

A second wave of swine flu could be on its way, scientists warned last night after the number of new cases rose for the first time since July.

The jump, from an estimated 3,000 to 5,000, comes a fortnight after children – key spreaders of the disease – returned to school.

There have been outbreaks at six schools in England, but health chiefs repeated that there are no plans to close schools as it would do little to contain the disease.

In another development, two sufferers are believed to have developed resistance to Tamiflu, the anti-viral drug which is the only line of defence to the disease before a vaccine is ready.

Disruption: A woman walks through London with a surgical mask in an attempt to protect her from swine flu (file picture). Scientists fear the deadly second wave of swine flu is on its way

Chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson however said the two cases were not of significance as there was no evidence these resistant viruses had been transmitted from person to person.

Experts have been predicting a second wave of swine flu will hit in the winter months following a lull over the summer break, when children were not mixing as freely. Sir Liam said the figures ‘begin to suggest swine flu is coming back’. And he admitted: ‘We would naturally have hoped for a bit more breathing space before it started again.’

There are 143 people in hospital in England, of whom 23 are in intensive care. The total of deaths linked to the virus stands at 67 in England and 79 across the UK.

Sir Liam has revised NHS forecasts, saying that between 3,000 and 19,000 will die from the virus – down from the 65,000 worst case scenario outlined in July.

The number of new cases have been falling since the peak of 110,000 a week reported in late July. Experts believe a second wave of the disease will be more deadly as it will coincide with winter, when flu is more virulent.

Sir Liam said more than 1.3million people had been assessed via the National Pandemic Flu Service for England, with 522,890 collections of anti-viral drugs.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham, left, and Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson demonstrate how to sneeze, while reducing the risk of infecting others, during a visit to a North London school

The schools affected by outbreaks are two in South Yorkshire, one in Carlisle, one in the North East and two in London.

Sir Liam said there were no plans to close schools as the virus was circulating in the community, meaning such efforts would have little value.

Tests on GlaxoSmithKline’s flu vaccine has shown that a good immune response can be achieved with just one dose rather than two, he said.

However, Sir Liam said the under-13s and over-65s may need two doses, although research was ongoing.

The Health Protection Agency said two samples from UK patients have been shown to have the genetic change associated with Tamiflu resistance. Both were from patients with compromised immune systems.

One has been proved to be resistant; the other is undergoing further tests to confirm resistance.

A spokeswoman for the HPA said there was no question that the resistance could have been caused by overuse of Tamiflu, which has been prescribed to hundreds of thousands of people with suspected cases of the disease.

‘We have seen this in other countries where there hasn’t been mass prescription of Tamiflu,’ she said. ‘The cases are sporadic, and there is no evidence of onward transmission. This is to be expected and is not a cause for concern.’

Health bosses to vaccinate 20million against swine flu by Christmas

Twenty million people will be vaccinated against swine flu by Christmas, with everyone receiving the jab by the middle of next year.

Experts are drawing up a priority list of patients to be given immunity before the bug becomes more virulent.

Those first in the queue are expected to be the elderly, infants under the age of five, people with asthma and diabetes, and those with compromised immune systems. NHS and social care workers would also get them first.

Ministers ordered 130 doses of the vaccine two months ago, in what would be the biggest vaccination programme of the last 50 years. The first batch is expected to be arrive by the end of next month.

Roll-out: A scientist works on developing a swine flu vaccine at the National Institute for Medical Research laboratories in London

On Friday, the first healthy person in Britain died after contracting the virus. Of the 15 people who have died of swine flu, all the others had underlying health problems before the succumbed.

Health secretary Andy Burnham has warned that 100,000 people might be contracting the bug every day by the end of next month.

Peter Holden, the British Medical Association’s lead negotiator on swine flu, said: ‘The high risk groups will be done at GPs’ surgeries.

‘People are still making decisions over this, but we want to get cracking before we get a second wave, which is traditionally far more virulent.’

He added: ‘If the virus does mutate, it can get a lot more nasty, and the idea is to give people immunity. But the sheer logistics of dealing with 60 million people can’t be underestimated.’

The first batch of vaccine is due at the end of August, with 60 million doses – enough for half the population – ready by the end of the year. Logistics mean around 20 million could have the jab by then.

But there would have to be rationing until the whole population could be vaccinated. That will not happen until the final jabs arrive in the middle of next year.

The latest swine flu-linked death happened at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, NHS East of England.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson warned yesterday that other healthy people were at risk of dying from the disease.

He said: ‘As with all flu-like viruses, some people are at higher risk than others. Unfortunately, people who are otherwise healthy could also become seriously ill or, sadly, die.’

Warning: Health secretary Andy Burnham (right) with Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson, says that soon 100,000 could be catching swine flu every day

But Sir Liam added: ‘Fortunately, this particular new virus isn’t nearly as severe as it could have been. If it had, for example, come out of the bird flu variant it would have been producing much higher levels of mortality.’

Yesterday holidaymakers were advised to check their travel insurance to ensure they will be able to get their money back should they come down with swine flu.

With school terms ending and summer breaks approaching, people who contract the virus should take the advice of their doctors about whether to stay at home, according to travel association Abta.

Abta spokeswoman Frances Tuke said: ‘We have had calls about this with regard to insurance – apparently some insurers are placing exemptions on policies. If you need to cancel because of swine flu you need to check your travel insurance policy to ensure it is covered.’

Nearly 10,000 lab-confirmed cases of swine flu have come to light after the virus spread to the UK from Mexico.

The UK has the third highest case total in the world after Mexico, with 10,262, and the US, which has at least 33,902.

It emerged yesterday that more than a third of UK businesses have no response plans at all for dealing with the pandemic. 

Civil servants were also told at a meeting that London Underground and the country’s broadband network could fail of a serious outbreak occurred.

Resistance To Flu Drug Widespread In U.S.: Study

A flu shot is prepared in Chicago, Illinois. US President Barack Obama has vowed to fight for his budget proposals that include investments in clean energy and healthcare as he faces a tough battle moving the measures through Congress. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Tim Boyle)

From Yahoo News/Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Virtually all cases of the most common strain of flu circulating in the United States now resist the main drug used to treat it, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Monday.

CDC researchers said 98 percent of all flu samples from the H1N1 strain were resistant to Roche AG’s Tamiflu, a pill that can both treat flu and prevent infection. Four patients infected with the resistant strain have died, including two children.


Scientists Close In On 'Universal' Vaccine For Flu: Study

From Breitbart/AFP:

Scientists on Sunday unveiled lab-made human antibodies that can disable several types of influenza, including highly-lethal H5N1 bird flu and the “Spanish Flu” strain that killed tens of millions in 1918.

Tested in mice, the antibodies work by binding to a previously obscure structure in the flu virus which, when blocked, sabotages the pathogen’s ability to enter the cell it is trying to infect, according to the study.

Because this structure — described by one scientist as a “viral Achilles’ heel” — is genetically stable and has resisted mutation over time, the antibodies are effective against many different strains.


Bacteria, Not Flu, Cause Of 1918 Pandemic

The 1918 flu pandemic is estimated to have caused the death of between 50 million and 100 million people in approximately 18 months (Source: US National Archives)

From ABC News/Reuters:

Strep infections and not influenza may have killed most people during the 1918 influenza pandemic, which suggests predictions about a new pandemic could be exaggerated, say US researchers.

The findings suggest that amassing antibiotics to fight bacterial infections may be as important as stockpiling antiviral drugs to battle flu, they say.

Professor Keith Klugman of Emory University, Atlanta and colleagues report their findings in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The team looked at information available about the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed between 50 million and 100 million people globally in the space of about 18 months.


Happiness: Contagious As The Flu

From Live Science:

In a good mood? Your neighbor, her friends and even her friends’ friends should thank you – you’re likely infecting them with your cheer. Happiness spreads through social networks about as easily as the flu, according to a new study.

The researchers analyzed data compiled from nearly 5,000 interconnected people over a 20-year period. After establishing a baseline mood for each participant, the team found that when one person became happier, it rippled through the network, increasing the likelihood that others would become happier too.

Sadness, thankfully, is not nearly as infectious. An attack of the blues creates a much smaller ripple than a case of giddiness, said head researcher James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego.