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New Strain of Swine Flu Confirmed by CDC, WHO

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three cases of a new flu virus have been confirmed in children, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is already preparing a plan of attack.

The virus originated in pigs but has thus spread through human contact; it was identified as influenza A of the H3N2 subtype, which is a distant relative of the H3N2 viruses that travel between humans. It was first observed in July, and since then, 10 cases have been confirmed in Maine, Indiana, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.

All of the sufferers of the virus were under the age of 10 except one 58-year-old adult. Currently, it is believed that as this virus is very similar to the H3N3 viruses which circulated in abundance during the 1990s, most adults over the age of 21 will have been exposed earlier and therefore already have some partial protection against this new strain.

Reports of the WHO’s preparedness for this flu follow the panic which many critics say the WHO created in 2009 over the swine flu virus, which forced governments to stockpile vaccines unnecessarily. Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for Health Security and Environment, stated that experts are currently "figuring out what needs to be done if the virus continues to spread and a global response is required.” 

“We’re very aware that we don’t want to overplay or underplay,” Fukuda continued. “We’re trying to get that right. [We’re] trying to make sure that we’re ready to move quickly, if we have to move quickly, but also trying not to raise alarm bells.”

Exposure to current H3N2 viruses could offer some measure of protection against these newer pig-originated viruses, reported Malik Peiris, flu expert and chairman of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong.  "It is important to see the serological data to see how much vulnerability or susceptibility there is in the human population," he stated.

Another flu expert, Dr Arnold Monto from the University of Michigan, insisted that the virus may not be terribly threatening if a major part of the human population has already built up antibodies again the virus. “If there’s a lot of immunity in the population,” said Monto, “there probably will not be any kind of extensive spread except maybe in these little clusters where you have little folks who don’t have much immunity to anything.”

Others are not so optimistic. “There’s no reason why this virus, if it continues to spread human to human, couldn’t move from country to country among young people,” said Fukuda.


Further Reading
Flu activity remains elevated, according to FluView, a weekly influenza surveillance report prepared by the Influenza Division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; however, the annual flu vaccine is moderately effective at preventing the disease, according to a report published in the Jan. 11 early-release issue of CDC's Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.
Recommendations for routine use of seasonal influenza vaccine in children have been updated, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement published online Sept. 2 in Pediatrics
Children age six years and older should receive annual trivalent seasonal influenza immunization, according to new recommendations from the AAP.
A pandemic specialist discusses how swine flu is transmitted and explains steps you can take to minimize the chances of spreading the infection.
“Near real-time” data on whether people are having any side effects from vaccinations is now available, thanks to new technology and a study performed in Scotland. The researchers, who focused on recipients of the 2009/2010 swine flu vaccination in Scotland, reported that using this technology can aid future vaccination campaigns by increasing consumer and patient safety.
Check out this useful collection of links to important influenza information from the CDC, the NCCC, key clinical journals, and other trusted sources.
The antiviral drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) reduced the risk of death by 25 percent among adults hospitalized during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, according to a review published online March 19 in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. In addition, antiviral treatment within 48 hours of developing flu symptoms halved the risk of death compared with starting treatment later or receiving no treatment.
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