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Flu

The Takeaway

Virus hunter Nathan Wolfe says we could have detected swine flu earlier

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Global health officials are warning that H1N1 swine flu could bloom into a pandemic. Yesterday, the World Health Organization declared a Phase Five alert. Epidemiologist and virus hunter Nathan Wolfe, of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, says it never should have gotten to this point. In an op-ed in today's New York Times, Wolfe argues that if global public health functioned differently, we probably could have detected the virus before it spread so widely.

Still unsure of how to spot swine flu? This video from the Centers for Disease Control explains the symptoms.

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The Takeaway

Analysis of President Obama's prime-time 100-days press conference

Thursday, April 30, 2009

President Barack Obama marked his first 100 days in office last night with a prime-time news conference. It was the third of Obama's presidency, and the first not dominated by the recession. Jay Newton-Small, Washington reporter for Time Magazine, joins The Takeaway to analyze the press conference.

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The Takeaway

What is a "Phase Five" swine flu threat?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic threat level to Phase Five. What does that mean? The BBC's Matt McGrath explains the connection between the threat level and international caution.
"They’re hoping if they can get this shut down until the 5th of May or so they will be able to stop any further spread of the disease in their country and be able to effectively, if not shut it out, at least weaken its sufficiently to be able to curtail the deaths."
—BBC reporter Matt McGrath on the spread of swine flu in Mexico

Click through for a transcript.

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The Takeaway

How prepared are the states for a swine flu pandemic?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The swine flu remains an "outbreak" not a "pandemic," but global health officials are warning that it could turn into one. The virus is now in at least 10 countries and World Health Organization has raised its pandemic threat level to Phase 5. How prepared are the states after shedding thousands of workers in their health departments? The Takeaway is joined by Dr. Paul Jarris, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
"The public health community at the state, local and federal level has been preparing for years for a pandemic. We are well-prepared. We have plans, they've been exercised, they've been drilled and right now they're being put in place across the country."
—Dr. Paul E. Jarris on the nation's preparedness for a flu pandemic

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The Takeaway

A review of President Obama's prime-time 100-days press conference

Thursday, April 30, 2009

President Barack Obama marked his first 100 days in office last night with a prime-time news conference. It was the third of Obama's presidency, and the first not dominated by the recession. April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Julie Mason, White House Correspondent for The Washington Examiner, join The Takeaway to review the press conference.

In case you missed it, watch Obama's comments about waterboarding in the video below.

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The Takeaway

Update on swine flu death in Texas

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The spokeswoman for Houston's Department of Health and Human Services, Kathy Barton, told the Houston Chronicle a few details about the child who succumbed to the flu, marking the first death in the United States from the H1N1 virus. It was revealed that the child was from Mexico, had become ill in Brownsville, Texas, and was transported to Houston for treatment. The child died Monday in an unidentified Houston hospital. There have been no reported Houston-area cases of the disease, so far. It's the first death outside of Mexico, where the outbreak first began. And out of the 65 confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S., most of them are mild. The CDC still has to release more details, but for we go to Dr. Susan Fisher-Hoch. She's a former CDC staffer, an epidemiologist at University of Texas School of Public Health, and co-author of the book, Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC.

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The Takeaway

Continue not panicking: Keeping the flu in perspective

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The first death from swine flu outside of Mexico occurred this morning in the United States when a toddler died from the flu. The flu is spreading across the globe. Germany confirmed three cases of swine flu on Wednesday, becoming the third European country hit by the disease. New Zealand's swine flu total rose to 14 and there are reported cases in Scotland, Spain, France, and Israel. To put this in perspective, we return to epidemiologist Dr. Richard Wenzel, who is Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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The Takeaway

Stopping the flu at the border

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The outbreak of swine flu is spreading across the globe, with cases confirmed from Mexico to Israel to New Zealand. Fears of a pandemic have prompted many nations, including ours, to ramp up security at land and air border crossings. As with any crisis involving national security, officials are considering all sorts of new technology to solve the problem. In Malaysia and Thailand, they're using high-tech thermal scanners to scan for swine flu. You pass through one at an airport, and it can determine if you’ve got a fever. So what technology are we using here at home? And is this going to help curb the spread of the flu? To help us answer these questions, The Takeaway is joined by Guy Martin, Senior Correspondent for Security for Conde Nast Traveller.

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The Takeaway

The challenge of naming a flu

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What to name the flu that is raising alarms across the globe is becoming a complex issue. See, pork producers object to use of the name "swine flu", particularly in light of the fact that the virus has not been conclusively found in pigs and seems to include DNA of the human and avian flu. But calling the bug "Mexican flu" or "North American influenza" irks others, despite falling in with a long medical tradition of naming bugs after the regions where they were first found. Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, seems determined to call it the "H1N1 virus," which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. To talk us through the global challenge of naming the flu is Keith Bradsher of the New York Times.

For more, read Keith Bradsher's article, The Naming of Swine Flu, a Curious Matter in the New York Times.

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The Takeaway

Swine flu claims a life in the U.S.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Center for Disease Control has just confirmed the first swine flu-related death in the United States. Despite the CDC's warning that deaths would occur in the United States, the news is still shocking. For how, or if, this death changes the discussion, we turn to Dr. Susan P. Fisher-Hoch, a former CDC staffer, now an epidemiologist at the University of Texas School of Public Health and co-author of the book, Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC.

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The Takeaway

Virus hunters chase down the swine flu

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The world has found a new strain of flu, so now what? Enter the virus hunters. This pack of epidemiologists, virologists, and infectious disease experts (sounds like a fun party) are fast on the bug's tail, looking for answers that may help us control its spread. What are they trying to figure out? How long will it take to rustle up some answers? And when you're an epidemiologist chasing down a flu virus, what do you do in your lab all day? The Takeaway is joined by Dr. Susan P. Fisher-Hoch, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas School of Public Health and co-author of the book, Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC. ,br/>
"It's a very bad idea just to go to the doctor's with a mild fever because that's the place to get infected because everybody will go there with their infected kids and their infected older people."
—Dr. Susan Fisher-Hoch on the spread of swine flu

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The Takeaway

Can we make a vaccine to stop swine flu?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine flu is continuing it's spread around the globe, and there's one word on everyone's lips: vaccine. Can researchers create a vaccine that will stop the virus with one quick jab of a needle? How quickly can a vaccine be created? And what can we do to prevent the spread of the flu before a vaccine is created? Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explains.

We were lucky enough to be able to nab Dr. Fauci by phone before he heads to Capitol Hill this afternoon, where he will testify at an emergency Senate meeting about the federal government's response to swine flu.

For more from Dr. Fauci, read his commentary on MSNBC.com, Why there is no AIDS vaccine.

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The Takeaway

Putting swine flu in perspective

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The last few days we've been inundated with numbers and swine flu facts. Eighty deaths in Mexico jumped to 100. Twenty sickened school children in Queens became 40. We know that pork's fine to eat, and that we might not want to travel south of border. But what about some of the contextual facts — are people getting sicker more quickly in this outbreak than they have in others? Will border security stations really help? Here to answer the Big Picture questions is Dr. Richard Wenzel, The Takeaway's go-to swine flu epidemiologist.
"As the numbers expand and we continue to see mild cases, then we have to turn the focus back to what's different about the patients in Mexico."
—Dr. Richard Wenzel on the cause of swine flu
Miss President Obama's speech regarding swine flu? Watch it here:

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The Takeaway

Border controls tighten in wake of flu scare

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

As the confirmed numbers of confirmed cases of swine flu continue to rise around the world, countries are responding at their borders, tightening transport and immigration controls. Joining us now to look at how the world is responding at the border is BBC Correspondent Matt McGrath.

Here's the AP's report on how the swine flu is sparking border precautions:

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The Takeaway

Swine flu: We know it's spreading, but not much else

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We continue our coverage of the outbreak of swine flu that appears to be spreading rapidly across the globe. While the epicenter of the outbreak is in Mexico, there are 50 confirmed cases of people sickened from swine flu in the U.S., including 28 at one New York City school. Around the world, 6 are confirmed in Canada; 2 are confirmed in Scotland (with 7 suspected); at least 10 are suspected in New Zealand. In Spain, there is one confirmed case and 17 suspected ones; one suspected in France and one suspected in Israel. This may appear to be a fast moving story to us non-scientists, but in the medical community, they are taking things slow. The Takeaway talks to Dr. Michael Edmonds, an epidemiologist at Virginia Commonwealth University to find out why.

Also joining the conversation is Tom Skinner, the spokesperson for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to give us the latest on the outbreak in the United States. We also will get a report from Ioan Grillo, Mexico correspondent for Time Magazine. He joins us from the heart of the outbreak in Mexico City.
"The best antidote to fear really is information, so we really do want people to be informed about what's going on and know that there really are steps that they can take to protect themselves and others."
—Tom Skinner of the Centers for Disease Control on swine flu protection
RESOURCES
Map: State-by-state swine flu infections (The Takeaway)
Read and listen to more about swine flu (The Takeaway)
Times Topics: Swine Flu (The New York Times)
Q&A: Swine Influenza and You (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Understanding Swine Flu (The New York Times)
Key Facts (CDC)
Swine Flu (CDC)
Swine Flu Alert Map (HealthMap.org)
Consults Blog (The New York Times)
Follow CDCemergency on Twitter

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The Takeaway

Swine Flu: What we know right now

Monday, April 27, 2009

UPDATED: April 30, 2009, 8:50 a.m. (Eastern)

- 91 confirmed cases of "swine influenza A" (H1N1) in United States, including one death (CDC, April 29, 2009, 9:45 p.m. ET)
- Cases confirmed in 11 states: Arizona (1), California (14), Indiana (1), Kansas (2), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (2), Nevada (1), New York (51), Ohio (1), Texas (16) (Source: CDC, April 29, 2009, 9:45 p.m. ET)
- Some U.S. schools are closing in ten states, and the government is asking employers to prepare contingency plans for workers, in case they need to telecommute. (April 29)
- President Obama: "We are continuing to closely monitor the emergency cases of the H1N1 flu virus throughout the United States. As I said this morning, this is obviously a very serious situation," (prime-time press conference, April 29)
- WHO Director-General raised the level of influenza pandemic alert to Phase Five (Source: WHO)
- It's not an "epidemic" even in Mexico
President Felipe Calderon is advising Mexicans to remain indoors between May 1 and May 5. There are 2,500 suspected cases of swine flu in Mexico and more than 160 suspected deaths. - The Department of Health and Human Services issued a nationwide public health emergency declaration, allowing HHS to "take additional steps to fully mobilize our prevention, treatment and mitigation capabilities should those actions become necessary." (Source: HHS, April 26)
Read More

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The Takeaway

Swine flu Q & A

Monday, April 27, 2009

What is Swine Influenza
Swine flu is a respiratory disease normally found in pigs caused by type A influenza virus. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. In the past, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received reports of approximately one human swine flu infection every one to two years in the U.S., but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza have been reported.

What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?
The symptoms of swine flu in humans are generally similar to the symptoms of the normal human seasonal flu. Symptoms generally include fever, extreme tiredness, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. However, without a specific lab test, it is impossible to know whether you may be suffering from swine flu or another flu strain.

Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
No. Swine flu is not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

How does swine flu spread?
Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human infection with swine flu usually occurs when people are in close proximity to infected pigs. Human-to-human transmission of swine flu occurs in much the same way as seasonal flu spreads, namely, through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

If infected, a person may be able to infect another person one day before symptoms develop and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. Thus, a person is able to pass the flu on before they know they are sick. Those with swine flu should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are demonstrating symptoms and up to seven days longer from the onset of their illness. Children might be contagious for longer periods of time.

What medications are available to treat swine flu infections in humans?
At this time, CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) for the treatment and/or prevention of infection of swine flu. These drugs work best if started within two day of getting sick.

Will a flu shot protect me?
Not necessarily. The swine flu viruses are very different from human viruses. Thus, it is generally understood that vaccines for human seasonal flu will not provide protection from the swine flu.

For more information:
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization

A few key terms
Endemic: The usual existence of a disease in certain areas. For example, experts fear that bird flu may become endemic in Turkey’s poultry population.
Epidemic: Unusual occurrence of a disease that affects a large number of individuals within a population or region at the same time, or the occurrence of a disease in larger number of individuals than usual.
Pandemic: An epidemic occurring over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting large numbers of people. A global epidemic.
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The Takeaway

Rudy Maxa answers your flu-related travel questions

Monday, April 27, 2009

In the wake of an outbreak in swine flu in Mexico that has been spreading, a health official for the European Union urged Europeans to avoid non-essential travel to the United States and Mexico. And here in the United States many of our listeners are concerned about travel to Mexico. Rudy Maxa is the Host and Executive Producer of the PBS travel series Rudy Maxa's World. He joins us now with answers to your travel questions.

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The Takeaway

Swine flu update with Laurie Garrett and Keith Bradsher

Monday, April 27, 2009

We are continuing our coverage of the swine flu outbreak. The flu started in Mexico, which is reporting over 1600 people believed to have contracted the virus resulting in 103 deaths. The flu has since spread across the United States from New York to California and there are now confirmed cases in Canada and Spain. Across the globe public health officials are swinging into action, spreading the word of hand washing, warning against large public gatherings, stockpiling Tamiflu treatments, and engaging the public. But countries like Hong Kong, who learned their lessons from the SARS scare, are already completely prepared for the possibility of an outbreak and have all their health care infrastructure in place. Keith Bradsher, Hong Kong bureau chief for the New York Times, joins us with a few ideas we can learn from Hong Kong and a look at the global response.

Also joining the discussion is Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist and writer of two bestselling books, including The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. Ms. Garrett is now the senior fellow for global health Council on Foreign Relations and is well poised to understand this crisis.

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The Takeaway

Swine flu update with epidemiologist Dr. Richard Wenzel and BBC's Ros Atkins

Monday, April 27, 2009

We are closely tracking the swine flu outbreak in Mexico that is rapidly spreading across the globe. There are confirmed cases in the United States and Canada and now Spain's health ministry has confirmed that nation's first case. World health officials are bracing for a potential worldwide pandemic of the swine flu that is being linked to the deaths of more than one hundred people in Mexico. More than 1600 people are believed to have caught the virus. The Takeaway is joined by Dr. Richard Wenzel, immediate past President of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. Dr. Wenzel is currently Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University. He can help us understand the symptoms, the causes, and the best ways to prevent transmission of this flu.

Also on The Takeaway is Ros Atkins, presenter of the BBC's World Have Your Say. He is in Mexico and joins us with a look at how Mexico is handling the outbreak.

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