CDC: FDA tweaks flu vaccine after moderate to severe flu season
ATLANTA — The 2014–15 influenza season was moderately severe overall and especially severe in seniors, with the H3N2 virus predominating, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
One reason behind last season’s elevated severity was the ineffectiveness of last year's flu vaccine, which was only 19% effective because of a mismatch between the strains included in the vaccine and the predominant circulating strain last season. The majority of circulating influenza A (H3N2) viruses were different from the influenza A (H3N2) component of the 2014–15 Northern Hemisphere seasonal vaccines, and the predominance of these drifted viruses resulted in reduced vaccine effectiveness.
For this coming season, the Food and Drug Administration's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee earlier this year recommended that the 2015–16 influenza trivalent vaccines used in the United States contain an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, an A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2)-like virus and a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus. Quadrivalent vaccines are also formulated with a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus. This represents a change in the influenza A (H3) and influenza B (Yamagata lineage) components compared with the composition of the 2014–15 influenza vaccine.
For the 2014-15 season, the cumulative rate of influenza-associated hospitalizations among adults over the age of 65 was 319.2 per 100,000 population, exceeding the cumulative total of 183.2 per 100,000 population for the 2012–13 season, which had previously been the highest recorded rate of laboratory-confirmed, influenza-associated hospitalizations since this type of surveillance began in 2005. Among children younger than 5 years old the cumulative hospitalization rate (57.1 per 100,000 population) was slightly less than that observed during the 2012–13 season (66.2 per 100,000 population).
During the 2014–15 influenza season in the United States, influenza activity increased through late November and December before peaking in late December. Influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominated, and the prevalence of influenza B viruses increased late in the season.
CDC: A new bird flu may make the rounds this fall
ATLANTA — Be prepared, this fall season may be especially active with consumers seeking flu shots with news that a new form of bird flu is making its rounds — the HPAI H5 virus. There are no confirmed flu cases in humans of the highly pathogenic virus yet and the risk is considered relatively low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned last week, but the agency is urging clinicians to be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms.
No human vaccines for HPAI (H5N1), (H5N2) or (H5N8) are available in the United States. Efforts are underway to develop vaccines against these HPAI H5 viruses, CDC reported. Seasonal influenza vaccines do not provide any protection against human infection with HPAI H5 viruses.
According to the agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed more than 200 findings of birds infected with an avian influenza virus between Dec. 15, 2014, and May 29, 2015. The majority of these infections had been detected in poultry, including backyard and commercial flocks. "USDA surveillance indicates that more than 40 million birds have been affected (either infected or exposed) in 20 states," the CDC stated. "These are the first reported infections with these viruses in U.S. wild or domestic birds."
While these recently identified HPAI H5 viruses are not known to have caused disease in humans, their appearance in North American birds may increase the likelihood of human infection in the United States. Human infection with other avian influenza viruses, including a different HPAI (H5N1) virus found in Asia Africa, and other parts of the world; HPAI (H5N6) virus; and (H7N9) virus, has been associated with severe, sometimes fatal, disease, the CDC noted.
"CDC considers the risk to the general public from these newly-identified U.S. HPAI H5 viruses to be low; however, people with close or prolonged unprotected contact with infected birds or contaminated environments may be at greater risk of infection," the agency stated. "Until more is known about these newly-identified HPAI H5 viruses, public health recommendations are largely consistent with guidance for influenza viruses associated with severe disease in humans … currently, CDC considers these newly-identified HPAI H5 viruses as having the potential to cause severe disease in humans."
The CDC recommended that:
- Clinicians should consider the possibility of HPAI H5 virus infection in persons showing signs or symptoms of respiratory illness who have relevant exposure history. This includes persons who have had contact with potentially infected birds; direct contact with surfaces contaminated with feces or parts of potentially infected birds; and persons who have had prolonged exposure to potentially infected birds in a confined space;
- State health departments are encouraged to investigate potential human cases of HPAI H5 virus infection and should notify CDC within 24 hours of identifying a case under investigation. Rapid detection and characterization of novel influenza A viruses in humans remain critical components of national efforts to prevent further cases, evaluate clinical illness associated with them and assess any ability for these viruses to spread among humans;
- People should avoid unprotected exposure to sick or dead birds, bird feces, litter or materials contaminated with suspected or confirmed HPAI H5 viruses;
- People exposed to HPAI H5-infected birds (including people wearing personal protective equipment) should be monitored for signs and symptoms consistent with influenza beginning after their first exposure and for 10 days after their last exposure;
- Influenza antiviral prophylaxis may be considered to prevent infection;
- Persons who develop respiratory illness after exposure to HPAI H5-infected birds should be tested immediately for influenza by the state health department and be given influenza antiviral treatment. State health departments are encouraged to investigate all possible human infections with HPAI H5 virus and should notify CDC promptly when testing for avian influenza in people.
Human infection with avian influenza viruses has not occurred from eating properly cooked poultry or poultry products, the agency noted.
Merz North America officially opens new HQ
RALEIGH, N.C. – Merz North America on Thursday announced the official opening of its new headquarters in Raleigh, N.C. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory was present at the event to officiate at the ribbon cutting ceremony and formally welcome Merz to the Triangle business community.
“By centralizing their North American operations in Raleigh, Merz has reaffirmed their commitment to North Carolina and their belief that this is a great place to do business,“ McCrory said. “Merz is a family-owned company with a strong focus on growth and innovation, and North Carolina’s talented workforce and thriving business climate will help them to achieve even greater success.“
“The opening of our new headquarters is a key moment in Merz North America’s success story. Our progress over the past three years has been fueled by significant internal success and execution, as well as two recent strategic acquisitions,“ said Bill Humphries, president and CEO of Merz North America. “Now, as a result of our move to Raleigh, we are able house all of our core business functions in one place, giving us the opportunity to become an even more significant player in our industry.“
Merz first established its U.S. presence in 1995. Prior to their move to Raleigh in January 2015, Merz North America was based in Greensboro, N.C. from 1995 to 2014.
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