Tuesday, May 5, 2009

CDC Daily Briefing

Secretary Sebelius was at CDC today and presided over the daily briefing. CDC Acting Director Dr. Besser updated the case count (previous posting) and noted that the Mexican cases are beginning to plateau, but that a second wave should be expected in the fall. The rest of the briefing focused on easing public health guidance, discussions about what's to come, and specifically addressing school closure guidance changes and the work on a flu vaccine.

Secretary Sebelius noted that now there are "more than 400 confirmed, more than 700 probable (cases) in 44 states." She emphasized that we should expect the virus to continue to spread, and for possible deaths from the H1N1 virus.

Good news is that the "virus doesnt apear as severe as we thought during the initial studies based on the mexican outbreak." However, she also noted that the virus is very easily transmitted. Very much like seasonal flu, the virus is transmitted easily (especially between children) and causes mostly mild/moderate illness. "36,000 people die (in the US) a year from seasonal flu, so we are likely to see deaths with this virus," the Secretary said.

"We are now recommending that schools cease closing when they have suspected cases - it makes it even more imporatnt that parents and teachers pay attention to sickness if it breaks out. Parents: if your child is sick, do not send your child to school because your child will transmit the virus to other children."

Vaccine Manufacturing Decisions: (No H1N1 vaccine to be manufactured yet)

CDC is not, at this time, pushing for the development of an H1N1 vaccine, instead they are accelerating production of seasonal flu vaccine to "clear the decks" so that if the decision is made to manufacture an H1N1 vaccine, the manufacturing capacity is freed up to turn to H1N1. The virus is expected to mutate over the next few months, and a second wave is expected in the fall when the seasonal flu season starts again. To better be able to manufacture an appropriate vaccine, a seed strain would need to mirror the circulating strain as closely as possible.

Importantly, the southern hemisphere is about to enter its flu season. The CDC and WHO will be watching to see how H1N1 affects their seasonal flu season and will inform decisions for public health preparedness, vaccine manufacturing, and other public health guidances.

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/index.htm

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