Archive for the ‘Public health’ Category
A story in the New York Times reports that scientists are learning that avian flu has acquired airborne transmission ability after it was modified for increased strength. The experiments were part of studies to learn how the virus behaves. Now this virus can survive in the nose of ferrets, mammals whose nostril temperature is 4 degrees C cooler than a bird’s gut, where H5N1 usually grows.
The article points out that there’s a difference in ferret noses and those of us higher order mammals. One point cannot be smoothed out, however. The crossover point of animal to human is a step closer after this discovery. That kind of crossover is a prospect for triggering a pandemic.
Cancers are caused by viruses. (So many diseases start with a virus.) A new drug might be able to treat people who already have a cancer, by employing the body’s natural immunity T-cells to attack cancer cells. No mention in this link about availability of the drug, but since it’s developed outside the US, approval can be much swifter. You’d still need traditional chemo/surgery for advanced cancers. But this is a novel way to get a pharma solution to ally with natural immunity. If you can afford the booster shots.
This is the kind of medicine that the PharmAlliance wants to create in Viral Times. There is the US government in the way of approving that drug, in my future of 2021. But for now, here’s the early report on ImMucin.
A traditional vaccine helps the body’s immune system fend off foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses, and is administered to people who have not yet had the ailment. Therapeutic vaccines, like the one Vaxil has developed, are given to sick people, and work more like a drug.
Vaxil’s lead product, ImMucin, activates the immune system by “training” T-cells –– the immune cells that protect the body by searching out and destroying cells that display a specific molecule (or marker) called MUC1. MUC1 is typically found only on cancer cells and not on healthy cells. The T-cells don’t attack any cells without MUC1, meaning there are no side effects unlike traditional cancer treatments. More than 90% of different cancers have MUC1 on their cells, which indicates the potential for this vaccine.
ImMucin is foreseen as a long-term strategy — a shot every few months, with no side effects — to stop the cancer from reoccurring after initial treatments, by ensuring that the patient’s own immune system keeps it under control.
Ah, the heady drama of last fall. H1N1 was a steady source of worry, creating the Worried Well and sparking a fevered drive to stock up on vaccine. In October CBS interviewed Dr. Troyen Brennan, the Chief Medical Officer of CVS, the drug store chain.
Asked if there will be enough H1N1 vaccine to go around, Brennan said, “We do believe there will be enough. The government’s been very careful in terms of the amount of H1N1 it’s ordered and that’s coming online right now.”
And so millions of Americans queued up for a Swine Flu shot, some at CVS, along with a seasonal flu shot. Boy, was there ever enough of the H1N1 vaccine. Too much for Europe, where some claim that Swine Flu was a fake epidemic. From NPR, “Governments all across Europe are canceling orders of swine flu vaccine as frantically as they were clamoring for it a few month ago.” Alas, we’re more determined to be protected in the US.
The government is thinking about how much more swine flu vaccine to order up and pay for. But Health and Human Services spokesman Bill Hall says any decision to scale back vaccine orders is “weeks away.” Let’s take stock. Last spring the US government signed contracts for $1.5 billion worth of vaccine against the novel H1N1 virus–251 million doses. So far, 55 percent of that amount has been shipped, and something like 60 million Americans have been vaccinated. That leaves 45 percent of the contracted-for vaccine yet to be delivered. That’s 115 million doses, worth about $675 million.
Okay, it’s under a billion dollars, so it won’t even show up in the US budget.
But the cost of stress-induced concern about health, missed work time to vaccinate, isolation of the populace that didn’t want to risk being in this epidemic: much greater. There’s a payoff for coverage as breathless and shallow as the CBS Early Show stuff, thank goodness. We’re being innoculated from the sudden panic of virus outbreaks. Read the rest of this entry »
A weekend report from ABC News explores the idea that the Swine Flu panic may be ebbing. Now that didn’t take long.
As part of its insights, the TV network took note of the Austin children’s hospital which pitched tents in the parking lot to vaccinate kids back in September. The tents are gone, ABC finally noticed. (The Dell Children’s Hospital here in my hometown took the tents down more than six weeks ago, but a reporter has to call around to find out anything. Apparently the local affiliate KVUE’s stories didn’t float up to the mothership.)
My friend Tom Coefield, who works as a planner for rival Columbia Healthcare St. David’s hospital, took note of the tents too. He was impressed by how thoughtful the tactic seemed. The hospital had no good reason for erecting the easy-to-spot tents, at least not public health-related. “But it showed everyone how much they cared,” Tom said with a wink.
Comments on the ABC TV web site assert that perhaps the recent alarm about Swine Flu was related to winning some stimulus monies for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Web site comments are way down the ladder on the reliable source chain, of course. And the H1N1 virus hasn’t departed our populace. But Tom says the test for determining if your flu is Swine is only accurate about 30 percent of the time. So much for the accuracy of reports about how many people have contracted it. Now come reports that H1N1 is mutating. Good news? That flu shot you got for H1N1 will be somewhat useful in creating immunity if you encounter a mutated live virus in the air, somewhere.
The World Health organization has surveyed 16 countries and believes that 65 million vaccinations for swine flu have taken place worldwide. Perceived risks of vaccination include Guillain-Barre syndrome, and the WHO report says “fewer than 10 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome have been reported” among people who received vaccines.
24 more countries are among those surveyed by the WHO, but the results in this majority of the world aren’t part of the report. Despite the safety reports, a new CNN poll asserts that the majority of Americans don’t want to receive an H1N1 vaccination.
According to the poll, 55 percent of adults don’t want to get the swine flu vaccine and don’t plan to get a shot. Another one in five say they want to get inoculated but haven’t taken any steps to do so; 14 percent want a shot and have tried to get it but have been unsuccessful. Just 7 percent have been inoculated for H1N1.
A “small number” of deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization, but given its optimism for the vaccine, the WHO believes its investigations can’t find a link between vaccine and death. “The results of completed investigations reported to WHO have ruled out a direct link to pandemic vaccine as the cause of death.”
But the CNN poll lists concern over side effects as the top reason more than half of the US residents surveyed don’t want a vaccine. The poll director calculates that 28 percent of the adult population don’t plan to get inoculated due to the risk of dangerous side effects.