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Rep. Sensenbrenner Sends Second Letter Inquiring About U.S. Government’s Review Of Controversial H5N1 Studies

“A senior Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives is asking more questions about how the U.S. government reviewed two controversial H5N1 avian influenza studies, and how it wrote a new policy for reviewing taxpayer-funded studies that might be used for good and evil,” ScienceInsider reports. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) on Monday “sent a letter [.pdf] to Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), asking him to clarify how the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) reached its recent decision to recommend publication of the two studies after recommending against publication late last year,” the news service writes, noting, “The letter also asks for more information on which government officials were involved” in the new policy regarding research that might be “dual use research of concern” (DURC).

Dutch Government Grants Export License Allowing Publication Of Controversial H5N1 Study

“The Dutch government has agreed to grant an export license to allow Ron Fouchier, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical University in Rotterdam, to publish his work on H5N1 avian influenza in Science,” Nature’s “News Blog” reports (Owens, 4/27). “Fouchier had to get permission first from the Dutch Department of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation — in line with E.U. regulations — because a risk existed that the H5N1 virus, as well as its research, ‘could be used for the wrong purposes,’ the Dutch department said in a statement,” according to Agence France-Presse (4/28).

About 47M Infected, 10,000 Dead From H1N1 In U.S., CDC Says

U.S. health officials on Thursday announced nearly 10,000 people in the U.S. had died from H1N1 (swine flu) since the virus was first reported in April, the New York Times reports. The latest numbers mark a “significant jump” from CDC’s estimate last month of 4,000 deaths in the U.S., the newspaper writes (McNeil, 12/10).

More H1N1 Vaccines Available In U.S., Many Americans Don’t Want Vaccination

While an increasing number of H1N1 (swine flu) vaccines are available in the U.S., “more than half of American adults say they still don’t want it, and one-third of parents say they don’t want their children to get it either, according to two surveys,” the Washington Post reports. “As of this week, 111 million doses of vaccine against the pandemic strain of H1N1 flu have been released to states and cities. Not all have been used. There have been no unusual or unexpected vaccine side effects reported.”

Recent Releases In Global Health

Scientific American Examines Neglected Tropical Diseases A Scientific American article examines recent efforts to tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The author writes “NTDs have plagued humankind for thousands of years. … What is new, however, is that donors, drugmakers, health ministries in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization…

Antibodies Produced By People Who Recovered From H1N1 Offer Clues For Universal Flu Vaccine

The antibodies produced by individuals who fought off H1N1 (swine flu) infection last year may bring researchers one step closer to their quest to develop a “universal” flu vaccine, U.S. researchers said Monday, HealthDay News/Bloomberg Businessweek reports. As the researchers from Emory University and the University of Chicago report in the Jan. 10 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, “people who were infected with the H1N1 virus and recovered had a special immune response, producing antibodies that protect against a wide variety of flu strains,” the news service writes (1/10).