Subjects: Public health
Yesterday afternoon, the Obama administration declared a public health emergency in response to a swine flu outbreak that has affected 20 US citizens. It is the same strain that has killed 81 people in Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano described the move as “precautionary” and said the Feds planned to release 25% of the 50 million treatment courses of Tamiflu and Relenza it has stockpiled, just in case.
The CDC has confirmed 8 cases in New York City, 7 in California, 2 in Texas and Kansas, and 1 in Ohio. All have been mild and only one person has required hospitalization so far.
Richard Besser, the CDC’s Acting Director said however, that he expected to see “more serious illness” this week.
Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s interim deputy director of science and health echoed that sentiment and upped it one. “I fear we will have deaths here,” she was reported to have said by MedPageToday.
The agency is trying to figure out why the virus seems to be targeting young adults, Schuchat added. One theory is that older folks have previously been exposed to H1N1 viruses–which have contributed some to the current virus’ genetic make-up–so they’re partially immune to the new bug.
The CDC has already obtained specimens of the new pathogen from which it can develop a vaccine “if that is necessary,” said Besser. In addition, it has put vaccine manufacturers on speed dial.
Tamiflu, a pill, is made by Roche and Gilead. Relenza is inhaled. It’s produced by GlaxoSmithKline and Biota. Both drugs appear to be effective against this virus, so long as they are given quickly after symptom onset.
The Big O recently visited Mexico, but he’s shown no symptoms so he’s not been tested.