ID Alerts

Influenza 2002/2003

Source: PHLS. Press Release, Feb. 6, 2002; ProMED-mail post, Feb. 7, 2002. www.promedmail.org.

Influenza experts, who meet annually to determine the composition of the following year’s influenza vaccine, are focused on a new strain of Influenza A virus (H1N2), which has been identified as causing human infection in Israel, England, and Egypt. This new subtype appears to contains a little bit of each of 2 influenza viruses that have been circulating in the human population for years, H1N1 and H3N2. Both the H1 hemagglutinin and the N2 neuraminidase of the new strain appear very similar to the corresponding parts of the existing subtypes. A similar reassortment occurred in China during the 1988/1989 flu season, although it did not spread farther at that time, and has also been found in swine for more than 10 years. This information provides an even more compelling reason to strive for maximal vaccine coverage of the elderly and high-risk patients next year. —Carol A. Kemper, MD

Anthrax Vaccine Program Bombs

Source: ProMED mail post, Jan. 9, 2002. www.promedmail.org.

The federally sponsored effort to provide postexposure anthrax vaccine to more than 5100 individuals potentially exposed to the deadly organism last fall has met with significant resistance and disinterest. Lacking union support, postal workers uniformly eschewed vaccination, including those workers at the New Jersey facility that experienced 2 deaths and 2 non-fatal cases of infection. Only 152 people, many of whom are congressional staffers, agreed to participate in the program. The controversial program was intended to thwart concerns regarding the possible risk of "reactivation" of anthrax despite receipt of prophylactic antimicrobials. In addition, adherence to the prophylactic regimen was amazingly poor. Reports suggest that half of those receiving prophylaxis did not complete their course of therapy. —Carol A. Kemper, MD

Dr. Kemper is Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Stanford University, Division of Infectious Diseases, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Redwood City, Calif.