HEALTH

CDC still urges H1N1 vaccination efforts despite incidence drop

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday urged the public and healthcare professionals not to become complacent with regard to H1N1 vaccinations. With more than 136 million H1N1 vaccine doses available for ordering, the CDC advised that if a person hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, now would be a good time to do so.

The word of caution comes as the incidence of flu — still predominated by the H1N1 virus — has dropped significantly in the past month. Only four states — Deleware, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia — are still reporting widespread influenza-like illness, compared with more than 40 states reporting widespread ILI a little more than a month ago.

Anne Schuchat, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, suggested that history may have a chance to repeat itself if the public does not remain vigilant. During the 1957 pandemic, incidence dropped significantly over the December-January period, but picked up that spring with a higher mortality rate.

“This is really a reminder of why we are saying that we need to remain vigilant,” Schuchat said. “This is why my colleagues and I in public health are encouraging people to be vaccinated, especially those who are at risk of complications.  None of us can predict what’s going to happen. … We don’t know what’s going to happen over the next several weeks or months.”

In 1957, following that drop in incidence, health officials “essentially gave the all-clear whistle,” Schuchat said. “They had vaccine, but they didn’t encourage its use and yet they did go on to see that increase in mortality. … As long as this virus is circulating, it has the potential to cause illness.”

And though incidence of flu is currently declining, incidence is still higher than is normal for this time of year, and the traditional flu season has yet to materialize. “All the virus that we’re seeing right now is the H1N1 virus,” Schuchat said. ”We haven’t yet seen the emergence of seasonal flu strains in any numbers at all.”

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CVS quells ‘Crave’-ings with Generex product

BY Michael Johnsen

TORONTO Generex Biotechnology Corp. recently expanded its distribution through CVS to carry its new diet-aid spray — Crave-NX.

The orange-flavored spray, already available through Duane Reade, contains only two calories per spray, and each spray is formulated to help curb cravings. Each bottle contains 20 sprays and is meant to complement other diet products or programs.

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HHS unveils National Health Security Strategy

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday released The National Health Security Strategy, the nation’s first comprehensive strategy focused on protecting people’s health during a large-scale emergency. The strategy sets priorities for government and nongovernment activities over the next four years.

“As we’ve learned in the response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, responsibility for improving our nation’s ability to address existing and emerging health threats must be broadly shared by everyone – governments, communities, families and individuals,” Sebelius stated. “The National Health Security Strategy is a call to action for each of us, so that every community becomes fully prepared and ready to recover quickly after an emergency.”

Among the initial actions, the federal government is conducting a review to improve the system for developing and delivering countermeasures – medications, vaccines, supplies and equipment for health emergencies; coordinating across government and with communities to identify and prioritize the capabilities, research and investments needed to achieve national health security; and evaluating the impact of these investments.

While the document does not specifically identify retail pharmacy as a healthcare resource in an emergency, Sebelius does call on local and state governments to incorporate the input and capabilities of the private sector into their overall emergency planning.

“The range of those participating and working together in these areas [the development of an effective medical countermeasure to a disaster situation] should be broadened beyond the federal government to include … pharmaceutical developers and academic researchers, the response community, medical and public health providers, and representatives of both the general public and at-risk individuals,” the document read. “Investments should be prioritized to effectively pursue those countermeasures that have the greatest potential to improve national health security, prevent or limit the spread of disease, limit the clinical impact of a health incident and have elements with potential widespread application even in the absence of a catastrophic event.”

Pharmacists, along with other healthcare professionals, are considered a key component of the overall public health workforce during a disaster. The document calls on local disaster coordinators to establish a network of emergency-response volunteers “who will be available to supplement the permanent workforce during a health incident; rapidly activate staff and volunteer personnel for emergency duty (e.g., to administer vaccines or medications at point-of-dispensing sites); provide treatment to the ill and injured at first aid stations, mass care centers, temporary clinics and other healthcare sites; provide staffing to EMS agencies; supplement hospital staff; [and] replace personnel who are unable to do their jobs because they themselves are victims of the incident.”

“Events which threaten the health of the people of this nation could very easily compromise our national security,” Sebelius said. “Whether it’s a pandemic or a premeditated chemical attack, our public health system must be prepared to respond to protect the interests of the American people. In order to be prepared to both respond to an incident and to recover, we need a strong national health system with individuals and families ready to handle the health effects of a disaster.”

For a copy of the full report, go to HHS.gov/aspr/opsp/nhss/strategy.html.

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