Seasonal Flu Influx Out of Season--May 2009

Not all patients reporting flu-like symptoms have been struck by the H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak. In fact, about half of those who have tested positive for the flu recently have the regular, seasonal flu, according to Daniel Jernigan, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Although it is decidedly out of season, the seasonal flu has continued to wreak havoc, causing widespread or regional illness in about 24 states. The prevalence of the regular flu virus at this time of year is an anomaly, as health officials would anticipate the flu season to have ebbed or ended completely, said Dr. Jernigan.

He asserted that the abnormally high incidence of seasonal flu is not simply due to a keener eye being placed on the flu virus due to H1N1. Data from physicians, schools, and laboratory testing have shown that the number of cases for this time of year has indeed seen a spike.

At the same time, swine flu continues to spread. According to Dr. Jernigan, the actual number of H1N1 cases throughout the country could be close to 100,000—more than 10 times the official 7415 cases that have been confirmed. The reason for the discrepancy, Dr. Jernigan said, is that many people do not seek medical attention if they are experiencing mild flu symptoms.

Not something to be ignored, the virus claimed its sixth US victim, Mitchell Wiener, a New York assistant school principal, May 18. School closures in New York have increased to 16, in efforts to thwart the spread of swine flu.

Despite its growth in America, the H1N1 virus is no longer posing as large a threat as it once did in Mexico. CDC officials are lowering the warning level for travel to Mexico to a precaution, saying the prevalence of the virus has waned there.

To deal with the swine flu outbreak, GlaxoSmithKline announced that it will be the first company to manufacture a vaccine for the virus. The drug maker must wait until the virus seed is made available by the World Health Organization (WHO). Several governments around the world have placed orders for the forthcoming vaccine. Belgium, France, Finland, and the United Kingdom have requested >128 million doses total for stockpiling. The company also said 50 million units of the vaccine will be donated to WHO for distribution to economically disadvantaged countries.

For other articles in this issue, see:

Mental Health Prescriptions on the Rise

Hospitals Expanding More into Retail Clinics

Pharma Giant Offers Free Meds

Innovators in Pharmacy: Parata Goes GREEN