Archive by category | Swine flu

Swine flu vaccine and Guillain-Barré syndrome not linked

The adjuvanted vaccines used during the 2009 swine flu (H1N1) pandemic did not significantly increase the risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a large, multinational study, commissioned by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), concludes today in the British Medical Journal.

Mixed review for WHO’s handling of the flu pandemic

“Performance fair, but could do better.”

That’s the thrust of an outside review of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s handling of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, by an expert committee which released a preview [pdf] of its findings yesterday.

Twenty-five scientists and public health experts, chaired by Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academies, formed the review committee, and released the preview to solicit comments before the committee’s final meeting on 28 March. Its final report will be presented at the World Health Assembly in May.

The WHO “performed well in many ways,” the committee’s report says. It defends the agency against allegations by critics that industry might have influenced WHO decision-making, including when to officially declare a pandemic. The review “found no evidence of malfeasance”. But it also gives a long list of areas where it says that the WHO could improve its future response to international threats to public health.

Sweden finds no link between flu vaccine and narcolepsy cases.

A preliminary investigation by Sweden Medical Products Agency of a putative link between GlaxoSmithKline’s Pandemrix pandemic H1N1 vaccine and a handful of cases of narcolepsy – a rare sleeping disorder, has found no evidence of a link. In an update reported 10 September, it says that study of the 22 cases reported from October 2009 to August 2010, shows than any increase in incidence “seems to be of the same magnitude in those vaccinated as in those not receiving any vaccine.”

Handful of narcolepsy cases sparks pandemic vaccine probe in Europe

The European Medicines Agency launched a review on 27 August of a putative link between GlaxoSmithKline’s Pandemrix pandemic H1N1 vaccine and a handful of cases of narcolepsy — a rare sleeping disorder. A temporal association between vaccination and development of the disease has been reported in 15 children in Finland and six in Sweden, although that by no means proves the vaccine caused them. The review will analyse whether there is any link or not, and whether the cases represent or not an abnormal increase on the usual baseline levels that would be expected: the prevalence of narcolepsy — which has a genetic component, and can be triggered by infections — is estimated generally at around 0.045% of the population, and in Finland 6 cases in children per year.

WHO to review handling of H1N1 outbreak

WHO to review handling of H1N1 outbreak

flu.JPGAll Nature’s pandemic flu coverage is collected on our news special page.

The World Health Organization is to review its handing of the swine flu pandemic, as it again comes under attack in Europe over allegations it overhyped the dangers of H1N1.

Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s special adviser on pandemic influenza, says an independent group will review how well the WHO responded to the outbreak and also whether the risks of the virus were communicated properly. A key issue for the review will be the WHO’s decision to declare a pandemic (Reuters).

“If we look back to the beginning of the pandemic there was a lot of discussion about what do you call these things,” says Fukuda (AP). “These things affect how people perceive outbreaks and pandemics so I think it’s one of those issues that we have to think about.”

The announcement came as the WHO again came under attack for over-hyping the dangers of H1N1. According to the Guardian, the Council of Europe’s health committee is considering a report which currently says the WHO has “gambled away” public faith with its excessively scaremongering pronouncements on H1N1.

“When the next pandemic arises many persons may not give full credibility to recommendations put forward by WHO and other bodies,” says the draft report, according to the paper. “They may refuse to be vaccinated and may put their own health and lives at risk.”

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe meets today to discuss swine flu. A previous meeting also dragged up allegations of poor practice at the WHO.

However, the WHO is not without support. Alan Hampson, chairman of Australia’s Influenza Specialist Group, said suggestions the WHO had overreacted were “absolute nonsense” (Sydney Morning Herald). And the Kentucky Department for Public Health has released an advert ridiculing those who doubt the swine flu vaccine (video here).

Too soon to know if H1N1 has peaked, says WHO

Too soon to know if H1N1 has peaked, says WHO

flu.JPGAll Nature’s pandemic flu coverage is collected on our news special page.

It is still too soon to say that the swine flu pandemic has peaked, the World Health Organization has warned.

Following a meeting of its emergency committee the WHO declined to change its current pandemic level, leaving it at phase six – widespread human infection. More data is needed before concluding that all parts of the world have passed peak transmission of H1N1, says the committee.

Although there is “mixed evidence” of declining or low activity in a number of countries there is evidence of new community transmission in West Africa, according to a statement from Margaret Chan, the WHO director general.

In its latest update – from 19 February – the WHO noted confirmed cases of H1N1 in over 212 countries, territories and communities.

However, the WHO did make one small step downwards in its Swine Flu Defcon Level. It has changed its recommendation to “intensify surveillance of unusual flu-like illness” to “maintain surveillance of unusual flu-like illness”.

More H1N1 news

“This pandemic appears to be on the less severe side of the spectrum of pandemics that we have seen in the 20th century.”

Keiji Fukuda of the WHO speaks to reporters (Reuters).

“The H1N1 flu pandemic has peaked in most parts of the country, top Chinese epidemiologists said yesterday, even as the World Health Organization (WHO) said the worst was not over internationally.”

China Daily says the pandemic is pretty much over in China.

Nature at the AAAS

Nature at the AAAS

Nature operatives are still at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Diego. Here’s a round up of their latest news, from our In the Field blog.

Nature at the AAAS

Nature at the AAAS

Nature operatives are still at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Diego. Here’s a round up of their latest news, from our In the Field blog.