Posts Tagged ‘H1N1’

Influenza Still Widespread in AZ

February 21st, 2014

A report out by the CDC this week found that people between 18 and 64 years old make up 61% of all flu-related hospitalizations so far this season in the US.   In normal years only about 35% of flu hospitalizations are from this age group. H1N1 (the flu strain we saw circulating in the 2009 flu pandemic) is still the main culprit.  H1N1 is included in this year’s vaccine, so people who got vaccinated will be protected from the flu in most cases.  People who’ve been vaccinated with the flu shot this year are 61% less likely to have to go to the doctor according to today’s report. 

Influenza is still widespread In Arizona.  If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, you may need to call around to find whether a healthcare provider or pharmacy near you still has vaccine in stock. Remember to get your shot early next season so you’re protected for the entire flu season. Visit stopthespreadaz.org to find a shot.

 

Influenza is Widespread in Arizona

January 24th, 2014

Influenza has been steadily spreading in Arizona over the last few weeks and this week we hit the Widespread Influenza threshold.  In fact, the number of cases increased by 50% this week- and several Arizona emergency departments are backed up with substantial wait times.  CDC’s report is due to come out Friday… but I’d guess that most states will also report widespread activity.  H1N1, the flu strain that caused the 2009 pandemic, is the most common strain out there right now. 

Luckily, this year’s flu vaccine includes H1N1, so people who’ve been vaccinated will be protected. If you haven’t gotten your shot yet, you still can – just remember it takes about 2 weeks for the shot to fully protect you.  Some other things to remember are to stay home when you’re sick so you don’t infect other people, wash your hands often, and cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze. Also, if you’re not having severe symptoms like a really hard time breathing or chest pain, then call your doctor instead of heading straight to the ER. 

On the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) front… we’ve had 495 cases reported so far this year. That’s about a 70% decrease from the number of cases we saw this time last year. Like every year, most of our cases are in kids under the age of 5, so it’s really important to keep your little ones healthy by washing their hands often, keeping them away from other sick kids, and keeping them at home when they’re ill.

Influenza Season Officially Arrives

January 3rd, 2014

Flu season is here!  Parts of the country (mostly in the south) have had more intense flu activity in the last few weeks, and 25 states reported widespread flu activity for the week ending December 28th.   Meanwhile, in Arizona we are seeing an increase in the number of lab-confirmed flu cases reported to ADHS- but 50% fewer cases than we saw last year at this time.  Not only are we seeing rising numbers of flu, CDC has also received reports of severe respiratory illness among young and middle-aged adults, which we also saw during the H1N1 pandemic. 

In Arizona, as in the rest of the U.S., three different strains are circulating including the same virus that caused the 2009 pandemic.  The H1N1 virus is part of this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine.  Don’t forget — it’s not too late to get your flu vaccination if you haven’t already! 

Like flu, respiratory syncytial virus (or RSV), is off to a slower start this year compared to last year. We’ve had 182 lab-confirmed cases reported so far (as of December 28th), compared to 601 cases at this same time last year. As we see every year, RSV is more common in kids 4 and younger this year, with 84% of our cases in this age group. Check out the weekly surveillance reports for  Arizona and for the U.S. online.

Next Season’s Influenza Vaccine

March 5th, 2013

Just as our influenza season winds down (and it is), it’s time to plan for the next one.  Every February the World Health Organization convenes a panel of experts to look at the most current data on the circulating flu strains from around the world and makes recommendations for the next season’s Northern Hemisphere flu vaccine.  At this week’s meeting in Geneva, the group recommended changing a B component of the vaccine, but sticking with the A/H3N2 and A/H1N1 components for next year. 

It may seem too early to be thinking about next year’s flu vaccine, but planning in February allows time for vaccine companies to grow the viruses and process the vaccine. The vaccine-making process still takes about 6 months… so it’s important to start as early as possible to ensure that vaccine is available for the start of the next flu season. Getting vaccinated against the flu every year is important, especially because the vaccine strains can change from year to year, as will happen for the 2013-2014 season.

Influenza Still Increasing in AZ

January 25th, 2013

Yesterday afternoon’s weekly flu report shows that influenza is still circulating widely in AZ…  with a steep increase in the last couple of weeks.  The strain that’s circulating is mostly Type A - H3N2 which can be more severe than the 2009 H1N1, especially for seniors. There are plenty of B strains going around too.  But you can still find a vaccine through Stop the Spread AZ – just be sure to call the place first to make sure they still have it and if you need an appointment.  By the way- this year’s vaccine is still a perfect match for the circulating strains.  The best prevention besides getting vaccinated is to wash your hands and make sure you cough or sneeze into your sleeve instead of your hand.  Most importantly…  don’t send your kids to school sick and don’t go to work sick either.

The Silent Breakthrough

November 26th, 2012

Until last week, influenza vaccine makers were limited to producing flu vaccines using a 40-year-old technology that depends on using fertilized chicken eggs to grow virus strains- meaning that it takes several months to make an influenza vaccine.  Makers needed to organize sterile egg supplies and incubate the virus in them before the vaccine could be made and delivered.  That’s why it took 6 months or so to develop the H1N1 vaccine during the 2009 pandemic.

Public health has known for a long time that relying on this 40-year-old egg-based technology poses a huge response and public health risk- especially if a severe pandemic strain were to break loose.  That’s why the US Department of Health & Human Services invested more than $1B in the development of a new cell-culture technology to develop the influenza vaccine.  A cell-culture technology will allow the public health system to make a brand-new influenza vaccine in a matter of weeks rather than months.

That investment paid off a couple of days ago- when the FDA  approved the first seasonal flu vaccine produced using cultured animal cells, instead of fertilized chicken eggs.  The vaccine is called Flucelvax and it’ll be available for people 18 and older.  The new vaccine isn’t in large scale production yet…  but it will be as soon as Novartis gets its manufacturing facility up and running.   

This breakthrough will also have another side benefit.  If you have an egg allergy and have always wanted to do the right thing for your community and get vaccinated for influenza, but couldn’t…  this new technology will allow your day to finally come.  Like I said…  it’s not widely available yet, but I’m sure it will be for next season. 

This new cell-culture technology will likely become the new standard for influenza vaccine production- and importantly- it adds an important layer of protection for pandemic readiness.

Flu Down Under- 2012

August 24th, 2012

The Southern Hemisphere has its flu season during our Summer- so every year around now we watch influenza activity “down under” to get an idea of what we might expect for our upcoming flu season.   Here’s the scoop right now.  Flu south of the equator has already peaked and continues to decline.  There’s been a lot of variation in the dominant viruses in each country this season.  Many South American countries have mostly had the H1N1 “pandemic strain” while others like Southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand all had a lot of influenza A (H3N2), with co-circulation of influenza B.  You can check out more on the World Health Organization’s main influenza website and the Australian Health Ministry’s surveillance website.  

The formula in this year’s US vaccine is a good match for what’s been circulating in the Southern Hemisphere so far this year (Influenza A H3N2 and H1N1, and influenza B).   Some of the manufacturers of the vaccine have already delivered some doses- and you’ll no doubt start seeing those “flu shots here” signs at a pharmacy near you shortly.

Flu Down Under

August 4th, 2011

This is the time of year that public health folks start watching the flu reports from the southern hemisphere.  We’re watching for a couple of things – the circulating strains and how it’s spreading.  The Australian Government Department of Health is reporting 6 times as many cases as they had at this time last season.  It could be an early season for them or it could be that it will end up being a blockbuster flu season for them.  The good news is that the circulating strains are all covered by the vaccine strains approved by the FDA last week –meaning that there aren’t any surprise strains going around (at least so far).  The H1N1 pandemic strain is dominant in Australia right now.

FDA Approves Vaccines for the 2011-2012 Influenza Season

July 25th, 2011

The FDA approved the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine this week. The strains in this year’s vaccine were recommended by the CDC and the World Healthy Organization after studying virus samples collected from around the world to find the influenza viruses that are the most likely to cause illness during the upcoming flu season.  The strains selected for this season are the same as last year: A/California/7/09 (H1N1)-like virus (pandemic H1N1 2009 influenza virus), A/Perth /16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus and B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus. 

 People should get immunized against the flu every year- even when there’s no change in the strain from the previous year (like this time).  Immunity to influenza viruses declines over time and might be too low to provide protection after a year.

ADHS Aces the 2010 Strategic National Stockpile Test

September 21st, 2010

The Strategic National Stockpile is a national repository of antibiotics, chemical antidotes, antitoxins, life-support medications, IV administration, airway maintenance supplies, and medical/surgical items which are stored in a few locations around the country. The stockpile is designed to supplement public health agencies in case there’s a national emergency anywhere and at anytime within the U.S. or its territories. At the beginning of the H1N1 pandemic, Arizona  received and distributed hundreds of thousands of treatment courses of antiviral medication and other hospital supplies.  We turned around our supplies and shipped everything to their final destinations at the local health departments within 36 hours.

Each year the CDC comes out to “grade” our readiness by reviewing our plans, exercises, our execution during actual events (e.g. H1N1) and our after action reports.  This week, our project officer gave us a final grade of A+ or 97%.

Well done Preparedness Team.

The reviewer gave us glowing commendations for factors including leadership support, effective coordination and collaboration with the state/local/private sectors (Scott Voss & Kaitlin Henslee), and development and implementation of a multi-year Training and Exercise Plan (Andrew Lawless).  We already knew we were ready because we smoked the H1N1 stockpile distribution, but it’s nice to know that we’re still in crackerjack shape.