November 19, 2009

Swine Flu Quarantines Don’t Work, Vaccine Safe

Radical measures, such as quarantines, are not likely to contain the H1N1 swine flu from infecting larger numbers of the world's population, experts said Thursday.

China first announced that its drastic measures had been successful in suppressing the virus, however it now admits that the outbreak is larger than official numbers reveal.

The nation has reported an official tally of almost 70,000 reported cases of the H1N1 influenza, with 53 deaths.

In the US, millions have been reported ill from the virus with almost 4,000 reported deaths.

"We have new cases occurring all the time," Dr. Michael O'Leary, WHO's top representative in China, told The Associated Press.

"There's always more deaths than we could possibly know about."

WHO first announced in June that the H1N1 flu was an unstoppable virus in June. It first issued guidelines for nations not to close their borders or impose quarantines.

"With initial efforts of containment, actually we not only reduced the impact of the first wave to China, but we also won time for us to prepare the vaccine," said China Health Minister Chen Zhu during a meeting of the Global Forum for Health Research in Havana.

In related news, the World Health Organization on Thursday responded to 30 deaths that occurred after a massive H1N1 vaccination, stating that it had yet to discover any direct link to the vaccines.

"China did not keep the virus out. They failed," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

"Although some investigations are still ongoing, results of completed investigations reported to WHO have ruled out that the pandemic vaccine is a cause of death," said Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO's director for vaccine research.

The UN agency said the vaccine is safe and it voiced certain concerns over reports that pregnant women and other high-risk groups were steering clear of being vaccinated.

"It is worrying indeed that certain groups don't seem to be coming readily to be vaccinated. But we hope that the data ... on the safety of these vaccines will dissipate the worries that a population might have and will help convince them that the vaccine is safe and vaccination will protect them against this disease which can be severe," Kieny said.

Some side effects have been reported from the vaccines, such as swelling and redness or pain at the injection site, fever or headache, but most symptoms disappear after 48 hours.

"The reports so far confirmed that the pandemic vaccine is as safe as the seasonal flu vaccine," said Kieny.


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