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WHO H1N1 Vaccine Shipments Headed To More Developing Countries

The WHO on Friday announced “it had delivered the first doses of H1N1 [swine flu] vaccine to Cuba, and a dozen countries in Africa would receive millions of doses in coming weeks,” Reuters reports. According to WHO spokeswoman Karen Mah, Cuba received an estimated 1.1 million doses Wednesday, and Honduras and El Salvador shipments are “en route,” according to the news service.

Opinions: Discrimination Against Sexual Orientation; WFP In Somalia; Haiti’s Recovery; WHO’s Policy Role

Discrimination Against Sexual Orientation Are ‘Backward Steps’ For Human Rights In Africa In a Washington Post opinion piece, Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, speaks out against efforts to deny individuals “their fundamental rights and freedoms” based on their sexual orientation. Tutu cites cases in…

CDC, Surgeon General Report On Increased Number Of H1N1 Cases In Southeast U.S.

Although H1N1 (swine flu) “has waned across much of the United States, the southeast is reporting an increase in cases of the H1N1 virus, U.S. health officials said on Monday,” Reuters reports. During a conference call with reporters, Anne Schuchat of the CDC reported an uptick in the number of H1N1 cases reported in Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia (Allen, 3/29).

GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer Will Supply 600M Doses Of Reduced-Price Pneumococcal Vaccines To Developing Countries Over 10 Years, GAVI Says

The GAVI Alliance on Tuesday formally announced that drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer had signed off on a “10-year deal … to supply 60 million doses a year of cut-price pneumococcal vaccines to developing nations,” Reuters reports. The agreement is under what’s “called an Advance Market Commitment (AMC) which guarantees a market for vaccines supplied to poor nations but sets a maximum price drugmakers can expect to receive,” the news service writes (Kelland, 3/23).

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).

Voluntary Moratorium On H5N1 Avian Flu Research Likely To End Soon

Following the conclusion of a two-day meeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) this week — meant “to gather feedback from flu researchers, others in the science community, and the public on its draft framework for funding H5N1 gain-of-function studies and to continue an international dialogue on issues related to benefits and risks of the research” — “experts anticipated that a voluntary moratorium on work with lab-modified strains that have increased transmissibility might end soon,” CIDRAP News reports (Schnirring, 12/18). “That’s because officials at the National Institutes of Health say they will be moving swiftly to finalize a new process for deciding whether or not to fund proposed experiments that could potentially create more dangerous forms of the bird flu virus H5N1,” NPR’s “Shots” blog notes.

Meeting Participants Discuss HHS Framework For Funding H5N1 Avian Influenza Research

CIDRAP News reports on a two-day meeting at the National Institutes of Health during which “researchers, biosecurity experts, and others” discussed the “crafting [of] a framework for funding H5N1 avian influenza gain-of-function studies.” The meeting “is the latest chapter in an intense scientific controversy that was triggered by the publication of two recent studies involving lab-engineered H5N1 strains that showed signs of being transmissible in mammals,” according to the news service. “The global scientific community is closely watching the framework discussions, because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is one of the world’s biggest funders of H5N1 research, including the two studies that sparked the controversy,” CIDRAP writes, adding, “Studies on H5N1 are considered a key pandemic preparedness step, and research findings have been used to help governments guide the development of vaccine and antiviral countermeasures.” According to the news service, “The HHS will post a summary and video of the meeting at a later date for those who weren’t able to attend, and it is encouraging people to submit written comments by Jan 10, 2013” (Schnirring, 12/17).

Small Ceramic Indoor Cookstoves Do Not Reduce Pneumonia Incidence Among Children, Study Shows

“Small ceramic indoor stoves, such as those sold by women in AIDS self-help groups in Africa, do save fuel and cut down on eye-irritating smoke, a new study has found — but they do not save children from pneumonia,” the New York Times reports. “The study, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, compared 168 households in rural Kenya that used either ‘upesi jiko’ [ceramic] stoves or traditional three-stone indoor fires,” the newspaper writes, noting, “Biweekly visits by researchers found that children in both the stove and open-fire homes got pneumonia equally often” (McNeil, 12/17). Though the ceramic stoves have some benefits, such as reduced smoke in the home and lower risk of burns, Rob Quick, a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a member of the research team, said, “[O]ur group is studying six novel cookstove technologies designed to cleaner burning, and we should have results in the next few months to see if one or more of these cookstove designs offer potential for reducing the risk of pneumonia,” according to VOA News (Lewis, 12/17).