Blog Post

Government Issues Dire Warning About Swine Flu

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is warning that the swine flu could cause up to 90,000 U.S. deaths, mainly among children and young adults, and see more than 1.8 million hospitalized if the H1N1 virus resurges as expected this fall. The Council’s report says 30,000 to 90,000 deaths are projected as part of a "plausible scenario" involving large outbreaks at schools, inadequate antiviral supplies and the virus peaking before vaccinations have time to be effective. A resurgence of swine flu could happen as early as September when the school year begins, with infections expected to peak by mid-October, the report states. However, the vaccine is not expected to be available until mid-October, and will be administered in two doses, with the second shot given two weeks after the first. Immunity to the virus would not kick in until two weeks after the second shot. The potential "mismatch in timing" could significantly diminish the usefulness of the H1N1 vaccine, the report says. "Even with the best efforts, this will cause some illness, some severe illness and unfortunately, some deaths," Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday. "But a lot so far has gone remarkably right," Frieden said. "There's a vaccine well on its way to being distributed, diagnostic tests available in well over 100 laboratories, treatments pre-positioned around the country ... and guidance issued for health care providers, schools, businesses and other communities." Among the report's recommendations are for government agencies to develop plans to protect the vulnerable such as pregnant women and those with pre-existing medical conditions, and to speed up production of the H1N1 vaccine and have an initial batch of 40 million vaccines ready by mid-September. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that clinical trials of the new vaccine are not indicating any adverse side effects. However, the London press reported last week that a confidential letter was sent by the UK’s Health Protection Agency to about 600 neurologists on July 29 warning that the new swine flu vaccine scheduled to be used in Britian next month is linked to a deadly nerve disease. Neurologists were warned to be on the alert for an increase in a brain disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which could be triggered by the vaccine. GBS which attacks the lining of the nerves, can be fatal. The letter refers to the use of a similar vaccine in the U.S. in 1976 when more than 500 cases of GBS occurred and more people died from the vaccine than from the flu.   However, trials on the U.S. vaccine are currently underway and Sebelius said no formal decision to launch a vaccination campaign would be made until those trials were complete. That decision would be hers, she said, and emphasized that any vaccination program would be strictly voluntary. She stressed that pregnant women, health care workers and parents or guardians of infants under 6 months of age are among the most vulnerable segments of the population. Adults under the age of 65 with an underlying health condition - such as asthma - are also considered to be more at risk from the H1N1 virus. H1N1 preparation guidelines for the nation's businesses and school systems were released three weeks ago. The plans are available at the Web site © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®