Colds and flu

15 September 2009

New flu wave can be contained

Health experts meeting in San Francisco have expressed confidence that a fresh (A)H1N1 outbreak can be contained, as the northern hemisphere braces for its winter flu season.

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Health experts meeting in San Francisco have expressed confidence that a fresh (A)H1N1 outbreak can be contained, as the northern hemisphere braces for its winter flu season.

Researchers, buoyed by news that a single dose of swine flu vaccine is enough to ensure adult immunity, said over the weekend that they were confident that the spread of disease could be stalled.

Since it was first detected in Mexico earlier this year, swine flu has killed over 3,200 people worldwide.

Good news
"This is really good news that one dose works. We can expect to have twice a many doses, and we will have vaccines for more people than we though earlier," said Nancy Cox, a flu expert at the US government-run Centres for Disease Control (CDC).

In another dose of good news, scientists believe the H1N1 virus does not contain a protein which is seen as causing more serious infections. "The bottom line is that (the protein) generates a lot of inflammation that you see during influenza virus infections," said Jonathan McCullers of St Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The lack of the protein, which "increases the virulence of the virus itself and also helps secondary bacterial pathogens," could point lower fatality rates, he added.

Concerns over drug-resistance
But there are still concerns that the virus may become drug-resistant, prompting scientists to look at new vaccine variations.

An experimental treatment by the US-firm NexBio Inc. prevents seasonal flu from infecting cells and could be successful in preventing new H1N1 strains that are resistant to Tamiflu, one of three anti-virals currently on the market.

In a statement NexBio said "extensive, prolonged non-clinical influenza studies have not shown the development of any meaningful resistance" to the new treatment. – (Sapa, September 2009)

Read more:
Swine flu timeline
Swine flu map

 

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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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