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Swine flu pandemic has not peaked, the WHO says

February 23, 2010 |  4:58 pm

Pig It is "premature" to declare that the swine flu epidemic has peaked, a panel of experts convened by the World Health Organization said Tuesday. The panel had been widely expected to say that the outbreak of pandemic H1N1 influenza had passed its peak and was now tailing off. The experts cautioned, however, that the virus had only recently reached Africa and that another wave of illness is expected in the Southern Hemisphere in the next few months as fall and winter approach. The committee recommended that another meeting be held in a month or two to reassess the situation.

In other swine flu news:

-- The Food and Drug Administration's vaccine advisory committee on Monday recommended that swine flu be incorporated as one of the three viruses in next year's seasonal flu vaccine. The move was widely expected because swine flu is the predominant virus now circulating in the United States and most of the world.

-- Many public health authorities had feared an outbreak of swine flu at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, but participants and spectators have remained remarkably free of the virus, according to a report in the Canadian Press. February is normally prime time for influenza, but last week the British Columbia provincial laboratory didn't find the swine flu virus in a single sample submitted for testing, according to the report.

-- At least 63 million Americans have been infected with swine flu, according to new estimates from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. They suggest that the large proportion of the population already infected, combined with the more than 70 million who have been vaccinated, should be sufficient to prevent a third wave of the pandemic. Their findings, reported in the non-peer-reviewed online journal PLoS Currents: Influenza, are based on an analysis of blood samples collected in Pittsburgh. They then extrapolated the data to the entire U.S. population, estimating that 21% had been infected.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II

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Researchers at The Texas A&M University System announced a research project today that's a direct reflection of the new innovations coming out of the handling of the H1N1 outbreak.

Project GreenVax is a research initiative to use plant-based technology (in this case, tobacco plants) to develop vaccines at a fraction of the cost and time of the current egg-based process. Further, the production processes and facilities, funded in part by a DARPA grant, are designed to produce at a projected final capacity of 100 million doses a month in the case of pandemic or bioterrorism.

Plus, the flexibility of the science could also enable development of vaccines and pharmaceuticals for everything from influenza to cancer, and new research into less prevalent "boutique" diseases that were previously too expensive to study.

The project was also covered in the Wall Street Journal this morning - your readers should check it out - pretty amazing stuff!


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