Public Health News Roundup: August 6
CDC Reporting Uptick in Swine Flu Cases this Year
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting a total of 29 cases of influenza A (H3N2) variant (swine flu) virus since July 2011. The virus has not yet been shown to be significantly transmissible to humans, but it contains a variation that was seen in the 2009 H1N1 virus, which raises concern. CDC announced late last week that it is working on a vaccine for the H3N2 and will start clinical trials this year. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the virus may be circulating widely in swine, but has not been shown to be transmissible to people eating properly handled and prepared pork products. Recent cases were found in people who had contact with infected swine at county fairs. CDC is urging anyone who has contact with animals to wash their hands before and after with soap and running water. Additional precautions include:
- Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth while in animal areas. Don’t take food or drink into animal areas.
- Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems should be extra careful around animals.
- If you have animals — including swine — watch them for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.
- Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible.
- Avoid contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
The virus has not been shown to be transmissible by eating pig products. Read more on flu.
Study: Heat is More Deadly Than Other Forms of Extreme Weather
Research funded in part by the National Science Foundation finds that extreme heat may kill more people than hurricanes. Richard Keller, a professor of medical history and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is completing a review of three August weeks of blistering temperatures in Europe in the summer of 2003. He found that 70,000 died of heat-related causes. Many who died were older, poor and lived in poorly ventilated apartments. Keller said the single greatest risk factor for dying during the heat wave was living alone. He said one concern is that public housing is often built with more attention paid toward staying warm in winter than in staying cool in summer. Read more on weather.
FDA Approves Generic Version of Singulair
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first generic versions of Singulair for use in adults and children to control asthma and allergy symptoms. The versions approved include tablets, chewable tablets and powder. “For people who suffer from chronic health conditions such as asthma and allergies, it is important to have effective and affordable treatment options,” said Gregory P. Geba, MD, MPH., director of the Office of Generic Drugs in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The generic products approved today will expand those options for patients.” Read more on asthma.