Federal Health Officials Prepare for Fall Influenza Season

Flu shot
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Federal health officials are expecting $350 million in preparedness grants to help them fight the pandemic H1N1, according to secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius addressed a group of government and health leaders at a pandemic preparedness summit and said that although planning to combat the spread of the virus could be scaled back later, delaying preparations is not an option.

“Over the course of coming weeks and months, we will move aggressively to prepare the nation for the possibility of a more severe outbreak of the H1N1 virus,” Sebelius said in a press release. She added that preparedness for a more severe outbreak is a responsibility “we all share.” She urged state and local health officials, including school districts, to prepare for a vaccination campaign in the fall.

Different vaccine manufacturers speaking at the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Meeting said that a vaccine may be ready by early fall.

A vaccine may play more of an important role in the fight against this virus, as World Health Organization officials are now reporting cases of oseltamivir–resistant virus.

WHO officials reported that they have been notified by health authorities in Denmark, Japan and Hong Kong of the appearance of H1N1 viruses that are resistant to the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) based on laboratory testing.

These viruses were found in three patients who did not have severe disease and all have recovered, WHO officials said. Investigations have not found the resistant virus in the close contacts of these three people. The viruses, while resistant to oseltamivir, remain sensitive to zanamivir.

There are close to 34,000 confirmed and probable cases of the H1N1 virus in the United States, with 170 deaths, according to CDC estimates. WHO officials report that there have been more than 98,000 cases documented worldwide.

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