Posted by Unknown On Thursday, April 30, 2009 4 comments
The world is abuzz with the swine flu. As people scurry to get their vaccine while others remain skeptical and some theorise about conspiracies, it is important to keep abreast with the latest information lest we be swept away by feelings of panic, only because we did not look beyond the reports. Here are some of the latest facts:

The top agency for health in farm animals on Monday said Mexico's outbreak of deadly influenza was unleashed by a pathogen mixed from bird, human and hog viruses and branded the term "swine flu" as wrong and harmful to pig farmers.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said the pathogen was "not a classic human virus... but a virus which includes [in] its characteristics swine, avian and human virus components."

"The virus has not been isolated in animals to date. Therefore, it is not justified to name this disease swine influenza," the Paris-based OIE said in a statement.

It said that science would show whether the virus was circulating among farm animals and the outcome should determine whether countries were justified in banning pig imports.

"Currently, only findings related to the circulation of this virus in pigs in zones of countries having human cases would justify trade measures on the importation of pigs from these countries," it said.

In an interview with AFP, OIE Director General Bernard Vallat described the virus as a "cocktail" of four different strains.

"The background of these strains has been reconstituted," he said.

"The avian strain is of American origin, and of the two swine strains, one is American origin and the other appears to be Asian. The human strain is American."

He added: "There is no proof that this virus, currently circulating among humans, really is of animal origin. There is no element to support this."

Vallat argued that "it would be really unfair to penalise pig farmers, who depend on their output for their livelihood, by talking about a risk which is not at all proven."

The OIE noted that past epidemics of human influenza epidemics with animal origin had been named after their geographical origin, such as Spanish flu or Asian flu.

"It would be logical to call this disease 'North American influenza'," it suggested.

Vallat said that "no-one, so far" had been able to show how or where the novel strain of virus had brewed.

Pigs are well-known crucibles for mixing viruses, able to harbour strains of flu that normally are specific to pigs, birds and humans.

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2. Suspected H1N1 Flu Case Reported at California Marine Base

The Marine Corps commandant today confirmed a suspected case of what the U.S. Homeland Security Council now is calling H1N1 flu, but has been known as "swine flu," at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

American Forces Press Service - A male Marine reported to a medical clinic on base over the weekend complaining of flu-like symptoms. Initial test results indicate the H1N1 virus, and the service is waiting for further results from testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway said.

The Marine, along with his roommate, are quarantined in the barracks, Conway said, adding that the roommate has shown no symptoms and the infected Marine is recovering.

"He's doing fine," the general said. "He's up and about. He said he feels pretty good. The doctors tell us that at this point, there appears to be no threat to him in terms of loss of life."

Doctors at the base also identified and restricted the activities of 37 other Marines who may have had contact with the infected Marine. The 37 are not officially quarantined, but are not allowed in public places such as unit formations and dining facilities.

The infected Marine was not given Tamiflu, an anti-viral drug used to prevent the flu, because he was past the point in his illness at which the medicine would have been effective, Conway said. All of the other Marines involved are taking Tamiflu.

The southern-California base is about 200 miles from the Mexican border, but the Marine had not visited Mexico, Conway said.

For the rest of the article, please click HERE.

3. WHO raises Swine Flu Alert Level

The global spread of swine flu, a pandemic, is highly likely, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday and raised its alert level to Phase 5, the next-to-highest level in the worldwide warning system.

Phase 5 has not been declared before. Phase 6 means a pandemic is under way. The health organization said its decision was based on the continuing spread of swine flu in the United States and Mexico, particularly the increasing numbers of unexplained cases among people not exposed to travelers or to institutions like schools or hospitals where many people have close contact with one another and high rates of transmission might be expected.

“All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans,” Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the organization, said at a news conference in Geneva. “Countries should remain on high alert for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.”

The first death from swine flu in this country — of a 23-month-old child from Mexico who was being treated in Houston — was reported on Wednesday, along with more infections and hospitalizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 91 confirmed cases from 10 states, up from 64 cases in 5 states on Tuesday.

Dr. Chan emphasized the need for calm, but at times spoke as if a pandemic had already begun, saying, for instance, “W.H.O. will be tracking the pandemic.” She also emphasized that flu epidemics tended to take much higher death tolls in poor countries than in rich ones, and said her organization and others would need to make special efforts to help poorer nations.

She called for global solidarity, saying, “After all, it really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.”

President Obama, terming the outbreak “cause for deep concern but not panic,” took the unusual step of using a prime-time televised news conference, convened to mark his 100th day in office, to deliver a public health message to the American people.

“Wash your hands when you shake hands, cover your mouth when you cough,” he said from the East Room of the White House. “It sounds trivial, but it makes a huge difference. If you are sick, stay home. If your child is sick, take them out of school. If you are feeling certain flu symptoms, don’t get on an airplane.”

For the rest of the article, please CLICK HERE.


A container of flu virus samples packed in dry ice exploded on a Swiss train, injuring one person but posing no other risks to humans, police said on Tuesday.

The box held vials of swine flu virus, although a different strain than the H1N1 variety that has caused about 150 deaths in Mexico and infected people in the United States, Canada, Spain and Britain.

A technician was transporting the container on Monday night to the Swiss national flu centre in Geneva, where scientists are developing a flu test for humans, police said.

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5. BAXTER seeks swine flu sample to begin work on vaccine

With world health officials worried about the global outbreak of another deadly virus, Deerfield-based Baxter International Inc. once again finds itself involved in the action.

Baxter confirmed over the weekend that it is working with the World Health Organization on a potential vaccine to curb the deadly swine flu virus that is blamed for scores of deaths in Mexico and has emerged as a threat in the U.S.

Shares of Baxter were up 2.4 percent, or $1.16, to $49.23 a share in trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Baxter, which has an emerging vaccine business, has worked with the U.S. and foreign countries in the past to develop vaccines for the H5N1 virus commonly known as bird flu.

Baxter has a cell-based technology that allows the company to produce vaccines more rapidly in the event of a pandemic than a decades-old method that uses eggs and can take weeks or months longer. Although the egg-based method has produced safe and effective vaccines, analysts say Baxter's method can cut production times in half compared with the older process.

"Upon learning about the swine flu outbreak in Mexico, Baxter requested a virus sample from WHO to do laboratory testing for potentially developing an experimental vaccine," company spokesman Christopher Bona told the Tribune.

In the past, Baxter has developed vaccines and worked with countries to stockpile vaccines even while they undergo experimental testing.

The idea behind the government stockpiles, in the case of the bird flu, for example, is to prepare against outbreak.

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6. SWINE FLU FEAR a boost for GILEAD

It's been a busy few weeks for Gilead Sciences.

Since Fortune last checked in on it, the biotech has reported record first-quarter revenues, completed its all-cash acquisition of CV Therapeutics, and launched the Phase II trials of its most promising pipeline product, the four-in-one, once-daily HIV "quad pill."

Now Gilead (GILD, Fortune 500) is in the spotlight again. As governments formulate their responses to the deadly swine flu outbreak, which has already claimed over 100 lives in Mexico and triggered a worldwide public health emergency, Gilead is one of the drugmakers that could benefit.

That's because its antiviral pill Tamiflu, which is marketed by Roche, is one of two drugs that is effective against this strain of influenza. Gilead collects royalty payments from Tamiflu sales, which peaked at $2 billion in 2006 as countries rushed to stockpile the drug against the threat of avian flu.

Tamiflu sales plummeted after governments finished building up their reserves. From 2007 to 2008, Gilead's royalties dropped 63% to $156 million, just 3% of annual revenues. But if countries are forced to dip into their stockpiles to combat the swine flu, sales could rebound.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already released 12.5 million doses of Tamiflu, which Citigroup analyst Yaron Werber estimates are worth $250 million in sales. Confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S. climbed to 91 Wednesday with the nation's first reported death, a 22-month old child who traveled to Houston from Mexico for treatment.

"It remains to be seen how much usage there's going to be and how much further stockpiling there might be," says Werber. "But we assume that the U.S. government will need to restock that $250 million worth of orders. For every $100 million in sales, that adds roughly two cents to Gilead's bottom line."

Other analysts are even more bullish. "Governments around the world, not just the U.S., that distribute Tamiflu are not going to take back the Tamiflu that's not used, so it's likely we'll see new purchases," says ThinkEquity's Jason Kolbert.

Gilead shares have risen 4% since Friday to close at $47.60 Tuesday.

Tamiflu - the tip of the iceberg

Any boost from Tamiflu sales would be a bonus for Gilead, whose main growth continues to come from its first-in-class HIV-treatment franchise (which has helped the biotech make Fortune's list of Fastest-Growing Companies for three out of the past four years.)

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7. Sanofi Aventis Invests 100 Million Euros In New Facility In Mexico To Produce Seasonaland Pandemic Influenza Vaccine

Sanofi-aventis (EURONEXT: SAN and NYSE: SNY), announced the signing of an agreement with the Mexican authorities to build a 100 million euro facility to manufacture influenza vaccine in Mexico.

The announcement was made during a ceremony attended by Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico, and Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, who was in Mexico City for a State visit.

This facility will be built and operated by sanofi pasteur, the vaccines division of sanofi-aventis Group, which was represented at the ceremony by Chris Viehbacher, Chief Executive Officer of sanofiaventis. "By building this new facility, sanofi-aventis is proud to contribute to the strengthening of Mexico's health infrastructure and is eager to support Mexico's exemplary commitment to public health through influenza immunization and pandemic readiness", said Chris Viehbacher. "This investment illustrates sanofi-aventis' local approach to global health. This facility will benefit public health in Mexico and the Latin American region, in the context of influenza pandemic preparedness".

The agreement was signed by Birmex' (Laboratorio de Biológicos y Reactivos de México) and sanofi-aventis' representatives in the presence of Dr. José Ángel Córdova Villalobos, Minister of Health of Mexico.

Under the terms of the agreement, sanofi pasteur will manufacture influenza vaccine in collaboration with Birmex, a Mexican federal vaccine manufacturer. Birmex will perform certain stages of manufacturing and will be responsible for distributing influenza vaccines to the public in Mexico. Sanofi pasteur is planning to start construction of the new vaccine manufacturing facility within a few weeks. Upon completion within four years, the facility will have a yearly capacity of up to 25 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine.

The new influenza vaccine plant will be built in Ocoyoacac, where sanofi-aventis already operates a facility. The plant will be designed to switch to pandemic vaccine manufacturing if a human influenza pandemic is declared and a pandemic influenza strain is identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).

As the world leader in research, development and manufacturing of influenza vaccines, sanofi pasteur is working to develop new and improved influenza vaccines to save lives and is actively involved in pandemic preparedness. Over the last five years, sanofi pasteur has been consistently investing in major expansions of its influenza vaccine production capacity in the United States, France, China, and now Mexico. With the production of more than 170 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine in 2008, sanofi pasteur confirmed its global influenza vaccine market leadership.

Seasonal influenza overview

Influenza is a disease caused by a highly infectious virus that spreads easily from person to person, primarily when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average global burden of inter-pandemic influenza may be on the order of 1 billion cases per year, leading to 300,000-500,000 deaths worldwide1. In temperate climate zones, seasonal epidemics typically begin in the late Fall and peak in mid-winter, infecting about 5-15% of the population each season, while In tropical zones the virus can be isolated year-round. The disease can affect all age groups, but rates of infections are highest among young children who spread the virus and are a potential source of infection in older age cohorts, whereas rates of serious illness, complications and death are highest in persons aged 65 years and older, as well as in persons with chronic cardiac or respiratory conditions1. The efficacy of vaccination in reducing the burden of the disease, as well as the economic burden of treating influenza, is well established.

Pandemic Influenza Overview

Influenza is a disease caused by a highly infectious virus that spreads easily from person to person, primarily when an infected individual coughs or sneezes1. An influenza pandemic is a global epidemic of an especially virulent virus, newly infectious for humans, and for which there is no preexisting immunity.

This is why pandemic strains have such potential to cause severe morbidity and mortality. In an attempt to minimize the impact of a pandemic, many countries are developing national and transnational plans against a possible influenza pandemic situation. For more information on sanofi pasteur and pandemic preparedness, please visit

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  1. says:

    Anonymous Oh dear me! Am in split minds as to whether I should go for the flu jab 'coz not sure if it is really that effective. I reckon staying away from crowded places and washing hands all the time are better options. Heard that WHO has declared a Level 5 alert now. Take care. Have a great weekend.

  1. says:

    Unknown Hi Andrea,

    I feel the same way. Indeed, staying at home and increasing our intake of fruits and vitamins would be the best bet! And of course, washing hands with sanitizers :-).

    Take care, Andrea and may you have a great weekend with your loved ones too!


  1. says:

    Walt Top Microbiologists Deaths’ — Is The Flu Virus a Biological Weapon?- Top Scientist suggests’ it Has been genetically Manufactured!!
    It seems to be killing only Mexicans. Don't worry, we will get by.

  1. says:

    Unknown Hi Walt,

    Yes, Article # 1 which I listed also implies the same.

    Thanks for the link...Take care and I am sure you will be ok...


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