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TIME Examines International Fight Against H1N1

TIME examines the international fight against H1N1 (swine) flu, including current efforts to produce an H1N1 vaccine and prepare the northern hemisphere for the expected surge in infections this fall. “While some companies have [vaccine] donation schemes for the developing world … the lion’s share will go to wealthy countries, despite the fact that underlying health conditions make populations in the developing world particularly vulnerable,” the magazine writes. As such, “Developing countries need to be clever about managing the doses they receive, for instance by immunizing front-line health workers, says Richard Coker of the Communicable Diseases Policy Research Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.”

Still, even a mild pandemic would prove challenging for developing countries, Coker said. “We’ve looked at the pandemic preparedness plans in developing countries and we’ve found that almost across the board the resources just aren’t there to implement plans effectively. It’s going to be very difficult for these countries,” Coker said (Scherer/Harrell, 8/12).

The Miami Herald examines the efforts being made in Costa Rica – the country with “the highest number of [H1N1] cases – and fatalities” in Central America – to stop the spread of H1N1. There, according to the newspaper, the country health officials have shifted their focus from testing for the H1N1 virus to “protecting the most vulnerable from further medical complications, including pregnant women, obese persons, asthmatics and those suffering from lung and heart conditions,” as recommended by the WHO. The article includes information about the complications posed by the fact both the seasonal flu and H1N1 flu are circulating in the region at the same time (Long, 8/13).

Fox News explores the debate over whether to treat children with flu-like symptoms with the antiviral Tamiflu after a group of scientists released a study Monday showing “the antiviral drug does little to ‘cure’ sick children with the H1N1 virus, and the medication’s potentially harmful side effects outweigh the benefits.” The news organization notes, “it appears those researchers are all alone in their thinking. In a statement to journalists, the WHO said people severely sick with the H1N1 virus – including children – need to be promptly treated with Tamiflu.” The FDA is also on board with the recommendation to treat children with Tamiflu, “deeming the drug safe for children as young as 1 year old” (Doyle, 8/13).