The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Human Swine Influenza Update: Saturday CDC Call

While I eat lunch, I’m keeping half an ear on the CDC conference call updating media on their investigation of the human cases of swine influenza.  Original post here with some background and previous call info.

Speaking on the call:

  • Anne Schuchat, M.D., Interim Deputy Director for Science and Public Health Program
  • Daniel Jernigan, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Epidemiology, Influenza Division

Today’s news:

  • still 8 confirmed human cases in the U.S., all mild so far
  • serious situation in Mexico, with “a number” of confirmed swine influenza cases primarily among adults
  • reports in Mexico have described much more severe infections, some of which have been confirmed as the H1N1 virus (note, though, that Dr. Schuchat suggested the apparent difference in severity between U.S. and Mexico could just reflect different surveillance efforts underway so far in the two jurisdictions)
  • numerous ongoing investigations at state and local levels but no new confirmations
  • CDC teams on the ground in California and in Mexico collaborating with Canadian and WHO teams
  • deferred most questions to state and local authorities

That was anticlimactic.  Based on poking around at this the last couple of days, it seems like the CDC is releasing information more slowly than other sources (WHO, etc.) partly because of the process and partly because they don’t want to accelerate public anxiety. 

For example, the current process is:

  • state and local labs have tools to identify Influenza if it is either the H5N1 “bird flu” strain or this year’s “seasonal” strain
  • if a type A Influenza sample tests negative for both, it is forwarded to the CDC
  • many of those are successfully typed by the CDC (i.e., the negative results were technical flaws at the state and local labs)
  • the remainder may actually be the new Human-Swine H1N1 and are further tested by the CDC

However, Dr. Schuchat declined to say how many samples of “un-typeable” flu are awaiting testing at the CDC, likely because the number is alarmingly large and hard to put in context with the false negatives and the normal seasonal background.

Reports on the CDC call said there would be a New York call addressing the St. Francis school testing and other local efforts at 3pm, but I couldn’t find a link.

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