Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Swine Flu: Boy Scout Camps Hit, Children "First" to Get Vaccine

Swine Flu Signals continue: several Boy Scout Camps in the Eastern part of the country have reported swine flu cases. 19 Boy Scouts were sent home with the flu in North Carolina, and several staff members were quarantined. Boy Scout camps in Georgia and Florida also had cases, with some scouts sent home, and staff members either sent home or quarantined.

Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that "choolchildren could be first in line for swine flu vaccine this fall — and schools are being put on notice that they might even be turned into shot clinics:"Sebelius says kids may get swine flu shots first

Sebelious is "urging school superintendents around the country to spend the summer preparing for that possibility, if the government goes ahead with mass vaccinations."

In the typical, contradictory nature of swine flu memes steadily released into our culture's newstream, the above item notes:
No decision has been made yet on whether and how to vaccinate millions of Americans against the new flu strain that the World Health Organization last week formally dubbed a pandemic, meaning it now is circulating the globe unchecked. But the U.S. is pouring money into development of a vaccine in anticipation of giving at least some people the shots.

While swine flu doesn't yet seem any more lethal than the regular flu that each winter kills 36,000 people in the U.S. alone, scientists fear it may morph into a more dangerous type. Even in its current form, the WHO says about half of the more than 160 people worldwide killed by swine flu so far were previously young and healthy.

It's a pandemic, but deaths from swine flu are less than deaths from the usual flus that hit us every year. Cases are being watched closely by the government here in the U.S. to see how flu season, which is "just beginning" in the Northeast, will affect children and the decision to introduce vaccines in schools.

The vaccine itself is a bit of an issue as well:
Companies are on track to provide pilot doses for testing later this summer, Sebelius said. Those government-led studies will check if the vaccine seems to work, if one dose or two will be needed, and most important if it's safe. The last mass vaccination against a different swine flu, in the U.S. in 1976, was marred by reports of a paralyzing side effect — for a feared outbreak that never happened.

So the Food and Drug Administration will closely track vaccine safety, Sebelius said.

And in quite the understatement, Sibelious commented:
The worst of all worlds is to have the vaccine cause more damage than the flu potential."

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