April 25, 2009
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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
- 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.
April 24, 2009
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This is not good news. FierceBiotech says at least 16 of 57 dead in Mexico have been confirmed killed by swine flu and hundreds more have taken sick, and that “there is abundant evidence that the flu is being spread from person to person.”
The New York Times reports that the Mexico victims died from the same new strain of swine flu that sickened eight people in Texas and California.
Update and Resources:
March 27, 2009
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One Step Forward: Earlier this week, Governor Perry of Texas announced $50 million of funding for Texas A&M University System’s National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing yesterday, following up on his keynote at a conference in February where he spoke highly of the state’s biotech industry.
Two Steps Back: At the same time…
*Joke, not typo.
February 18, 2009
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Texas Governor Rick Perry keynoted a conference yesterday on “the challenges and the future of biotechnology in Texas” and “told the group that the biosciences are ‘the next big thing in the global economy.'”
According to the article in today’s Star-Telegram, the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute is encouraging a number of measures this legislative session for bioscience, including:
- A bill that would reauthorize the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, which was established with $200 million by the Legislature in 2005 to promote and finance innovations in technology.
- A bill that would make it easier for patients to enroll in clinical trials for life-threatening diseases, which, officials say, is a necessary step in developing new medicines and medical devices.
Also, some jobs data:
There are about 33,000 Texans employed in biotechnology, with an average salary of more than $84,000, according to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism.