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Lack of H1N1 vaccine may bring about more lab tests

Category: Infectious Diseases

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week that the production of the H1N1 vaccine is occurring at a slower pace than expected.

Claiming the vaccine would be made available to everyone who wanted it, the CDC anticipated having 40 million doses available by the end of October, CNN reports. Dr Anne Schuchat, the CDC's director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases says that manufacturing delays bring the expected total down to about 30 million doses.

Because of the shortage, public health departments throughout the U.S. are exhausting their reserves of the vaccine and are uncertain when new doses will arrive. The East Metro Health Department in Georgia, for example, depleted its allowance of about 6,000 doses of the FluMist vaccine between Saturday and Tuesday.

Jessica Maher, a concerned parent whose son attends a preschool where H1N1 was recently diagnosed, told the news source she felt the government did not "make the leaps and bounds to make sure [the vaccine] was available to everyone when they would need it." She added, "It shouldn't be a supply-and-demand thing."

The CDC identifies young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those who have chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, hepatic, hematological, neurologic, neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders as groups at a higher risk of acquiring the H1N1 virus.

Swine flu: advice, myths and fraud

As the flu season approaches, doctors in 46 states have reported that total influenza hospitalization rates for flu cases are increasing and are already higher than expected for this time of year, according to the CDC. In the attempt to deter further spread of the virus, health officials have released guidelines for disease prevention and have tried to dispel common public misconceptions about swine flu.

A CNN Research Corporation poll based on interviews with 1,038 Americans found that 49 percent of people felt safe getting the swine flu vaccine, while 43 percent believed it was dangerous.

Meanwhile, CDC officials say that a vaccination is the first step in preventing the virus' spread. In addition to getting vaccinated, CDC officials recommend that people regularly wash their hands with soap and water, avoid contact with sick individuals and try not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth.

Beyond these basic steps, doctors from the University of Alabama at Birmingham's (UAB) Student Health Service wish to clarify the misconception that so-called "swine-flu parties" could benefit people by exposing an individual to the disease giving them biological resistance.

"It's a very, very bad idea" said Walter White, doctor of osteopathic medicine. "It goes against everything medicine and public health are trying to do to encourage social distancing for the infected, and it could hamper efforts to control the disease."

Finally, officials are urging the public to be wary of phony H1N1 prevention products, which could include dietary supplements and false drugs, medical devices or vaccines.

Since May 2009, the FDA has identified more than 75 websites and more than 135 fraudulent products claiming to defend against the 2009 swine flu strain.

Preventative swine flu testing?

In the meantime, strides by researchers may make it possible for physicians to quickly and accurately diagnose H1N1 using lab tests.

In a study, which will be published in the December issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology, scientists found that computed tomography (CT) scans can effectively characterize the distribution and severity of swine flu in affected patients.

As with testing for autoimmune diseases, cancers or STDs, flu testing can help doctors make early and effective diagnoses to frustrate the spread or severity of a disease.

Currently, FDA-approved swine flu vaccines include products manufactured by CSL Limited, MedImmune, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Limited.

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