Posts Tagged ‘WHO’
By Shirley S. Wang
July 16, 2009
The virus is spreading with â€œunprecedented speedâ€, wrote the WHO. â€œAt this point, further spread of the pandemic, within affected countries and to new countries, is considered inevitable.â€
But countries need to continue to closely monitor â€œunusual eventsâ€ like clusters of severe virus infections or unusual patterns of these serious cases. These signals might come from noticing an increase in the number of people staying home from work or school, or by an increase in emergency room visits.
Thu Jul 16, 2009 1:10pm EDT
Â * H1N1 virus has spread more quickly than other pandemics
* WHO says pointless to count individual cases
* But countries should track deaths, unusual patterns
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, July 16 (Reuters) – The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday that the H1N1 flu pandemic was the fastest-moving pandemic ever and that it was now pointless to count every case.
The United Nations agency, which declared an influenza pandemic on June 11, revised its requirements so that national health authorities need only report clusters of severe cases or deaths caused by the new virus or unusual clinical patterns.
“The 2009 influenza pandemic has spread internationally with unprecedented speed. In past pandemics, influenza viruses have needed more than six months to spread as widely as the new H1N1 virus has spread in less than six weeks,” it said in a statement on the new strain, commonly known as swine flu.
It has become nearly impossible for health authorities and laboratories to keep count of individual cases — which have mostly been mild — as the virus spreads, according to the 193 member-state agency.
Flu experts say at least a million people are infected in the United States alone, and the WHO says the pandemic is unstoppable.
“It is very much agreed that trying to register and report every single case is a huge waste of resources,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said.
Such tracking has limited authorities’ capacity to investigate serious cases and is no longer essential to monitor the level or nature of the risk posed by the virus, WHO said.
However, all countries should still closely monitor unusual clusters of severe or fatal infections from the pandemic virus, clusters of respiratory illness requiring hospitalisation or unexplained or unusual clinical patterns.
“Signals to be vigilant for include spikes in rates of absenteeism from schools or workplaces, or a more severe disease pattern, as suggested by, for example, a surge in emergency department visits,” it said.
Britain reported on Thursday that 29 people had died to date after contracting the virus. Health Minister Andy Burnham said this month the government was projecting more than 100,000 new cases a day of the flu in the country by the end of August.
The WHO will no longer issue global tables showing the numbers of confirmed cases for all countries — which stood at 94,512 cases with 429 deaths as of its last update on July 6.
Instead, it will issue regular updates on the situation in newly affected countries, which should report the first confirmed cases, weekly figures and epidemiological details.
Countries should still test a limited number of virus samples weekly to confirm that disease is actually due to the pandemic virus and to monitor any virological changes that may be important for the development of vaccines, it said.
At least 50 governments have placed orders for vaccines against the new H1N1 strain or negotiating with drug makers, WHO vaccine chief Marie-Paule Kieny told Reuters. [ID:nLG225946]
The WHO does not report figures for cases of seasonal influenza, which it says is linked to 250,000 to 500,000 deaths a year globally. (For the WHO statement go to: here) (Additional reporting by Peter Griffiths in London)
Swine flu will be biggest pandemic ever, warns world health chiefAs swine flu sweeps the planet, Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organisation, tells how she is leading the battle against it â€“ and the personal price she is paying.
Chan’s war has arrived with a vengeance. A 2007 WHO report, A Safer Future, estimated that a flu pandemic could affect more than 1.5 bn people, or 25% of the world’s population. Could swine flu be that big? “Quite likely. Quite likely. But it probably won’t happen in one run. It will probably come back [in two or three waves].”
How does she expect it to compare to other pandemics? “In terms of the number of countries affected and the number of people infected, this has got to be the biggest.”Â Â read more here
13 JULY 2009 | GENEVA — On 7 July 2009, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization held an extraordinary meeting in Geneva to discuss issues and make recommendations related to vaccine for the pandemic (H1N1) 2009.
SAGE reviewed the current pandemic situation, the current status of seasonal vaccine production and potential A(H1N1) vaccine production capacity, and considered potential options for vaccine use.
The experts identified three different objectives that countries could adopt as part of their pandemic vaccination strategy:
Protect the integrity of the health-care system and the country’s critical infrastructure; reduce morbidity and mortality; and reduce transmission of the pandemic virus within communities.
Countries could use a variety of vaccine deployment strategies to reach these objectives but any strategy should reflect the countryâ€™s epidemiological situation, resources and ability to access vaccine, to implement vaccination campaigns in the targeted groups, and to use other non-vaccine mitigation measures.
Although the severity of the pandemic is currently considered to be moderate with most patients experiencing uncomplicated, self-limited illness, some groups such as pregnant women and persons with asthma and other chronic conditions such as morbid obesity appear to be at increased risk for severe disease and death from infection.
Since the spread of the pandemic virus is considered unstoppable, vaccine will be needed in all countries. SAGE emphasized the importance of striving to achieve equity among countries to access vaccines developed in response to the pandemic (H1N1) 2009
The following recommendations were provided to the WHO Director-General:
All countries should immunize their health-care workers as a first priority to protect the essential health infrastructure. As vaccines available initially will not be sufficient, a step-wise approach to vaccinate particular groups may be considered. SAGE suggested the following groups for consideration, noting that countries need to determine their order of priority based on country-specific conditions: pregnant women; those aged above 6 months with one of several chronic medical conditions; healthy young adults of 15 to 49 years of age; healthy children; healthy adults of 50 to 64 years of age; and healthy adults of 65 years of age and above.
Since new technologies are involved in the production of some pandemic vaccines, which have not yet been extensively evaluated for their safety in certain population groups, it is very important to implement post-marketing surveillance of the highest possible quality. In addition, rapid sharing of the results of immunogenicity and post-marketing safety and effectiveness studies among the international community will be essential for allowing countries to make necessary adjustments to their vaccination policies.
In view of the anticipated limited vaccine availability at global level and the potential need to protect against “drifted” strains of virus, SAGE recommended that promoting production and use of vaccines such as those that are formulated with oil-in-water adjuvants and live attenuated influenza vaccines was important.
As most of the production of the seasonal vaccine for the 2009-2010 influenza season in the northern hemisphere is almost complete and is therefore unlikely to affect production of pandemic vaccine, SAGE did not consider that there was a need to recommend a “switch” from seasonal to pandemic vaccine production.
WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan endorsed the above recommendations on 11 July 2009, recognizing that they were well adapted to the current pandemic situation. She also noted that the recommendations will need to be changed if and when new evidence become available.
SAGE was established by the WHO Director-General in 1999 as the principal advisory group to WHO for vaccines and immunization. It comprises 15 members who serve in their personal capacity and represent a broad range of disciplines from around the world in the fields such as epidemiology, public health, vaccinology, paediatrics, internal medicine, infectious diseases, immunology, drug regulation, programme management, immunization delivery, and health-care administration.
Additional participants in the SAGE meeting included members of the ad hoc policy advisory working group on influenza A(H1N1) vaccine, chairs of the regional technical advisory groups and external experts. Observers included industry representatives and regulators who did not take part in the recommendation process in order to avoid conflicts of interest.