Swine Flu Update #6

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Expert Perspective by Grahall’s Robert Cirkiel

expert perspective telescopeIn a Reuters article published on CNBC.com (“Novavax Reports Progress on Swine Flu; Shares Jump”) Novavax reports that they have developed a “new kind of influenza vaccine works against the new swine flu virus in animals… in fewer than four weeks after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the genetic sequence of the H1N1 swine flu virus, which is now causing a pandemic.”  Novavax may be the first to report, but there are a number of pharmaceutical companies developing H1N1 flu vaccines.  This attention bodes well for lowering concerns about scarcity or delays, in North America and Europe where flu season is soon approaching.

The fast development and production of an effective vaccine for H1N1 is important since  the CDC is predicting that the H1N1 flu virus could cause a particularly severe flu season this year and the typical seasonal flu vaccine is unlikely to provide protection against the H1N1 influenza. 

Part of any employer’s planning for a possible pandemic would be to track the development of flu vaccines and determine if an “in office” vaccination program is appropriate or even possible, and, of course to have all the necessary legal caveats in order.

The CDC report for the week ending August 13, states that to date in the US there have been total of 7,511 hospitalizations and 477 deaths associated with the H1N1 virus.   What is becoming very clear is that the pandemic will spread this fall and winter and some project it to touch about a third of all humans. That is a lot of people and what ever the number, there is a huge potential impact on employers from illness and absenteeism.

If you are wondering what you need to know bout the flu and how to prepare your company for the pandemic, read our other blogs.  You can find them by following the links below.

> Swine Flu:What Employers Really Need to Know 
Swine Flu Update 2
> Swine Flu Update 3 
Swine Flu Update 4 
Swine Flu Update 5
> Swine Flu: How can I prepare my Company for an H1N1 Pandemic

Contact Robert Cirkiel at robert.cirkiel@grahall.com

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ADDENDUM (by Grahall’s Editorial Director Edie Kingston):

An August 18, 2009 article by AFP journalist Marlowe Hood “Swine flu vaccine orders pass one billion: WHO”  published on Yahoo.com quotes World Health Organization spokeswoman Melinda Henry saying: “Pandemic vaccine orders put in by northern hemisphere countries stand at over one billion…In the early days, there will be a very limited supply of vaccine. There won’t be sufficient supply to vaccinate whole populations, or even huge proportions of populations”.  Hood writes: “Intense demand coupled with production delays could create shortages, forcing governments that are preparing for a second, possibly more deadly, wave of flu to make hard choices about who to vaccinate first…”

The question of who to vaccinate first is surely a difficult one.  The CDC website has a pretty long list of high priority recipients including what some might on the surface think as odd: that group being “otherwise healthy young adults”.  Why not the elderly, infirm or “otherwise unhealthy” individuals?  Grahall’s health actuary Robert Cirkiel has an explanation for this. He says: “In the past, the key risk group demographic for many of the pandemics was not children nor the elderly, but rather otherwise healthy adults. This is known as the “inverted mortality curve” unique to pandemics. Healthy young adults have the ability to create the massive amounts of liquid to flush out the virus and then end up dying of pneumonia (in essence ‘drowning’).   Cirkiel adds that some health authorities are advocating vaccination against pneumonia this fall as well.

Contact Robert Cirkiel at robert.cirkiel@grahall.com


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