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Swine Flu Vaccine In Production 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the europe-wants-to-hog-it-all dept.
ravjen writes with news that "Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG said they have successfully produced a swine flu vaccine weeks ahead of their expectations. The vaccine was made in cells, rather than grown in eggs as is usually the case with vaccines." This announcement came just a day after the World Health Organization declared H1N1's spread to be a pandemic. The vaccine has not been tested in humans yet, so the first batch is set to be used in clinical trials and pre-clinical testing. If all goes well, the new production method would allow Novartis to get the drug to market in large quantities by this fall. Other drug companies, such as Baxter International, have confirmed that they're in "full-scale production" of H1N1 vaccines as well.
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Swine Flu Vaccine In Production

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  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday June 14, 2009 @09:30AM (#28326131)

    Can anyone explain why this virus is so different from all the others floating around? Why the panic?

    The case fatality rate (CFR) of the pandemic strain is estimated at 0.4% (range 0.3%-1.5%)

    We've all had worse diseases than this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      well, my wife caught it - sickest I have ever seen her. Most of the week in the hospital in isolation.
      My son had it as well - he just was home from school for the week sleeping. No energy. For a while I really thought I would lose my wife. If this was the "minor" strain, I am scared at what the "experts" say is the upcoming worse strain in the fall.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 14, 2009 @09:51AM (#28326227)

      It's a new strain of the virus that caused the Spanish flu. H1N1 is known to be highly unstable. It has a tendency to pick up genes from other viruses.

      So far, this new strain is milder than a normal yearly influenza virus. But that was also true about the Spanish flu virus, the first two mutations that went around the globe. The third one was highly lethal and, sadly, 100% lethal to pregnant women.

      Look at it this way. Three possibilities:

      1. We might get a huge deadly pandemic now, which could be as lethal as a world war.

      2. Or we may well get a medium deadly pandemic, which also calls for great measures.

      3. Or we may get a mild extra flu, on top of the usual annual flu. If we are so lucky this time, it will have been the best possible exercise for our future defences against the next great deadly pandemic. It's only a matter of time before we are faced with a pandemic with the potential of killing off tens of millions of people worldwide.

      Fingers crossed and knock on wood, etc, etc...

      • by Curtman (556920) *

        H1N1 is known to be highly unstable. It has a tendency to pick up genes from other viruses.

        Is it possible these properties will make for a more "dangerous" vaccine than others?

        I'm not well educated in these matters, but I did become very sick after getting a regular flu shot the one and only time I got one.

        • by True Grit (739797) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nrubgocwde'> on Sunday June 14, 2009 @11:11AM (#28326625)

          H1N1 is known to be highly unstable. It has a tendency to pick up genes from other viruses.

          Is it possible these properties will make for a more "dangerous" vaccine than others?

          No, they will instead make for a less effective vaccine, because the virus *might* end up mutating faster than we can produce viable vaccines for it. Or it might just fizzle out and disappear, H1N1 is inheriently undependable in this regard, you can't predict its behavior, which is the problem.

          What happened to you can actually happen to anyone after taking any vaccine (though normally its rare). Vaccines are in effect a way to give your body a very *weak* version of the virus so it will recognize it as an enemy if the real virus shows up later. Human variability being what it is though, sometimes a very weak version of the virus manages to gain a foothold despite it being weaker, and sometimes it is still enough to trigger a strong, perhaps overly-strong, immune system response.

          • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @11:49AM (#28326807)
            You forgot to mention that they don't even use 'live' virus any more. The vaccines used today for flu are not 'dangerous' unless you have an egg allergy. They basically just prime your immune system so that it can properly recognize a flu infection and respond accordingly. They do not inject you with live flu virus.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              You forgot to mention that they don't even use 'live' virus any more. The vaccines used today for flu are not 'dangerous' unless you have an egg allergy. They basically just prime your immune system so that it can properly recognize a flu infection and respond accordingly. They do not inject you with live flu virus.

              This is not entirely true. MedImmune's Flumist vaccine uses an attenuated, cold-adapted live virus. However, it is not injected. It is sprayed as a mist into the sinuses and causes a VERY MILD infection (typically a runny nose for a couple of days). Unlike the killed virus injections, it causes a full immune response because it is live virus and it is applied at the site where most people are first infected with the flu.

          • by Cyberax (705495) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @12:03PM (#28326895)

            Flu vaccines _do_ _not_ use a weakened viruses. They use _proteins_ from virus envelope, the don't contain viral RNA.

            So it's not possible to get a flu infection from a flu vaccine.

            • by True Grit (739797) *

              Flu vaccines _do_ _not_ use a weakened viruses.

              If you're right then somebody really needs to update this page [wikipedia.org]. If this page is correct, and *most* flu vaccines are still made with inactive-virus or attenuated-live-virus methods, then what I said, and what the AC said in response above us are still true. There may be a new "animal cell" culturing method on the way, that you're referring to, but it hasn't taken over completely yet.

              So it's not possible to get a flu infection from a flu vaccine.

              But it is possible to get "sick", which is the word the OP used I believe, I was thinking of the over-reacting immune system

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Cyberax (705495)

                It's complicated...

                First, a special strain of flu virus (A/PR/8/34) is combined with the target virus. The strain A/PR/8/34 is not very pathogenic for humans, but grows readily in eggs.

                So there's really not even a trace of a target flu virus in vaccines.

                Next, inactivated flu virus is filtered and purified (by centrifugation, chromatography, etc.) to remove nucleic acids, other viral material and all sort of cell debris. So for all practical purposes, flu vaccine does not contain live or even attenuated flu

      • by Ozlanthos (1172125) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @01:10PM (#28327359)
        I refuse to have any shots or other treatments until I am actually "sick". If I am a carrier, sorry dude, you might die but I doubt I will. The reason "pandemics" usually occur is due to OVER-POPULATION. Once people start figuring out that having millions and millions of little petrie-dishes concentrated tightly enough for a virus to play mutation-hop-scotch in, the better off we will be. We are biological organisms, and as such the same rules that apply to other populations of biological organisms apply to us!!!

        Besides we could probably use a good culling or two. Between pandemic and war, I will choose pandemic 7 days a week and twice on Sunday. Pandemics are indiscriminate and take down rich, poor, black, brown, yellow, red, white, gay, straight, Jew, Gentile, Atheist, young and old. Wars tend to take out those fighting them and some collateral damage.,,,never those rich or privileged enough to escape them.

        -Oz
        • by h4rm0ny (722443)

          Besides we could probably use a good culling or two.

          Leaving aside how you're likely to feel if someone you care about were killed by a pandemic, it probably wouldn't have the long term effect you anticipate. The usual response of human cultures to a wide-scale loss of life is breeding on a massive scale. The most effective means of reducing the population long-term appears to be a stable and prosperous society with effective education and opportunities for women. You can see the results in much of Western

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by IorDMUX (870522)

          Pandemics are indiscriminate and take down rich, poor, black, brown, yellow, red, white, gay, straight, Jew, Gentile, Atheist, young and old.

          I invite you to study the sad statistics of one of our current pandemics, AIDS, especially as it affects Africa.

          Claiming that a pandemic will equally cull the ranks of rich and poor alike shows a very limited understanding of modern health care issues.

      • by syousef (465911)

        So far, this new strain is milder than a normal yearly influenza virus. But that was also true about the Spanish flu virus, the first two mutations that went around the globe. The third one was highly lethal and, sadly, 100% lethal to pregnant women.

        I don't know where you got 100% lethal but at least that part of your post is incorrect. Here's a better source:

        http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2008/04/02/youth-survey.html [www.cbc.ca]
        "In the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, one study reported on 1,350 pregnant women who became in

    • by Clarious (1177725)

      Because it is highly infectious, there is a high chance that it may merged with another flu virus that is deadlier but has low infection rate (think H5N1 - chicken flu, or SARS) and become a super virus that will wipe half of the earth. Or it could just get mutated and become something that is much more dangerous.

    • by Xest (935314) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @10:05AM (#28326323)

      Funnily enough even that figure is skewed.

      I was looking at the details about Swine flu the other day, regarding death tolls and that sort of thing.

      Apparently seasonal flu mortality rate is 0.1%, some places said 0.5% but this seems to only be in less trustworthy sources like the general media vs. medical journals and scientific articles etc. which suggest 0.1%.

      Now, worldwide the swine flu mortality rate is 0.47% last time I calculated it (I don't have the numbers to hand now) which is to be fair, at least 4 times higher than that of seasonal flu.

      However, if you examine the situation in Mexico where as of 5th June 97 of the 117 confirmed deaths had occured you'll notice that it's an anomally. The amount of deaths in Mexico is vastly higher in the rest of the world, despite there now being many more cases outside of Mexico than there are in. Why this is could be any number of reasons - poor healthcare, first place hit so they didn't know how to deal with it, lower quality of life in Mexico city and hence people less healthy - who knows, it could be anything. The point is though, that Mexico IS an anomally.

      If you factor Mexico out of the equation (both death rates and infection rates) the mortality rate of Swine flu is drastically lower and really is no worse than that of seasonal flu from a percentage standpoint. In fact, outside of the Americas, despite thousands of cases, no one has died at all.

      But of course, mortality rate as a percentage isn't the full story. There seem to be two other factors suggesting Swine flu is a problem, these are:

      1) The possibility of it mutating to become worse

      2) It's more contagious, so even though the mortality rate as a percentage is lower, more people die because more people get infected

      As for point 1) I really am not going to worry about this, I don't like to worry about something that is merely speculation, plan for it and account for the possibility? yes, worry about it? No. Is there even any evidence it's more likely to become worse than a particular strain seasonal flu? Point 2 is the real issue, because although it's no more lethal, more people are going to die because of the contagious nature of it, that said even this might not be the case, I don't know how contagious seasonal flu is in comparison.

      With Margaret Chan the director of the WHO coming out with such gems as "After all it really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic." I've lost a lot of respect for them. Swine flu is undoubtedly a problem but I get the impression the WHO is loving this situation because it's a chance for them to get their names in the news but it's not even the first time - look at all the fear mongering over bird flu and apocalyptic scenarios they told us to expect then, how a bird flu pandemic was inevitable etc. within just a few months at the time, remind me, how did that turn out again?

      I'm more concerned that we've got a case of the boy who cried wolf, even this time round swine flu reporting seems to be less prominent than the H5N1 bird flu was at the time so I wonder if even media outlets have already decided to treat what the WHO say with a bit more scepticism.

      If you want a real apocalyptic scenario then there's the idea that Swine flu both mutates to become worse and is vastly more contagious but personally, I'll file that alongside worrying about global nuclear war and alien invasion. When there's any evidence to suggest we're closer to any of these I'll start worrying or even caring a bit more. Until then, I'll continue living life as always, washing my hands before I eat, after I sneeze and so on as I always have anyway because it's simply good practice if you want to avoid being ill.

      • by Vellmont (569020) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @10:55AM (#28326553)

        In general I agree with your sentiment that there's been a lot of over-reaction to this whole thing. A few weeks after the thing first blew up in the news we got more information that this is really "no big deal", but yet there's still remnants in the world of the panic machine going forward. The following, however I don't agree with:


        - look at all the fear mongering over bird flu and apocalyptic scenarios they told us to expect then, how a bird flu pandemic was inevitable etc. within just a few months at the time, remind me, how did that turn out again?

        What I recall is the idiotic media outlets spreading a lot of fear about bird flu. I recall scientific sources talking about this as a long term problem we need to watch and learn more about because it COULD (but we don't know when, maybe decades) eventually mutate into something that spreads from human to human.

        If you want a real apocalyptic scenario then there's the idea that Swine flu both mutates to become worse and is vastly more contagious but personally, I'll file that alongside worrying about global nuclear war and alien invasion.

        Why is it people have to turn to some other equally idiotic extreme? Global nuclear was and "alien invasion" have never happened except in movies. Global disease outbreaks including flu that killed millions of people have happened with some regularity for hundreds, if not thousands of years. In all likelihood this whole thing will turn out to be nothing as H1N1 is unlikely to mutate into something more deadly. Putting it in the same category as "alien invasion" is just as stupid as all the fear mongering the media outlets love to do.

        When there's any evidence to suggest we're closer to any of these I'll start worrying or even caring a bit more.

        If we're close to a deadly flu outbreak, it's really already too late. We need to start developing techniques to get faster vaccines now, not just before it happens. If this HAD been the real-deal, a several month delay to make the vaccine is just too long. You don't need to sit around and cower in fear or start wearing face masks that likely do nothing. You do need to start thinking about how we should be better prepared.

        • by Xest (935314) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @11:12AM (#28326627)

          "Why is it people have to turn to some other equally idiotic extreme? Global nuclear was and "alien invasion" have never happened except in movies. Global disease outbreaks including flu that killed millions of people have happened with some regularity for hundreds, if not thousands of years. In all likelihood this whole thing will turn out to be nothing as H1N1 is unlikely to mutate into something more deadly. Putting it in the same category as "alien invasion" is just as stupid as all the fear mongering the media outlets love to do."

          More appropriately, why is it that people have to overreact to what was clearly a non-serious comparison? All you needed to take away from my comment was that swine flu regardless of how likely it is to other major problems is not something I'm going to spend my time worrying about day to day because it's not that big a deal right now. If you take anything more away from it you are simply getting uptight about something that you've strung together yourself. Being equally pedantic though you might want to re-think that argument that nuclear war is unlikely to happen because it's never happened before whilst global pandemics are more likely because they have happened before. The two events are entirely unliked, and the history of nuclear weapons is far too short to start doing a statistical comparison of the two possible events. Nuclear weapons were about 25 years off even being invented when the last serious pandemic occured. FWIW, I do not believe little green men capable of invading our planet even exist.

          "If we're close to a deadly flu outbreak, it's really already too late. We need to start developing techniques to get faster vaccines now, not just before it happens. If this HAD been the real-deal, a several month delay to make the vaccine is just too long. You don't need to sit around and cower in fear or start wearing face masks that likely do nothing. You do need to start thinking about how we should be better prepared."

          Yes, but there are people whose job it is to do that. There's no point worrying the general public about it when there's nothing they personally can do other than be taught good general hygeine measures and sickness prevention measures in the first place such as not going into work, and working from home if you're ill as well as washing your hands, blowing your nose with something disposable like a tissue etc.

          There is absolutely no point me worrying about it, because a) the odds right now are there is nothing to worry about, b) there's nothing I can do other than what I do anyway even if it was worth worrying about.

          • by Vellmont (569020)


            More appropriately, why is it that people have to overreact to what was clearly a non-serious comparison?

            I guess I don't agree that a well thought out response is an "over-reaction", or that it was clear your response was "non-serious". Your response sounded to me like a complete dismissal of the whole situation, which is equally foolish.

            Yes, but there are people whose job it is to do that. There's no point worrying the general public about it

            Much of the world is a democracy. Running a democracy involves

            • by Xest (935314)

              "I guess I don't agree that a well thought out response is an "over-reaction", or that it was clear your response was "non-serious". Your response sounded to me like a complete dismissal of the whole situation, which is equally foolish."

              Generally when people start mentioning alien invasions it's a good idea to realise they're not making a serious comparison ;)

              "I don't think we need to "worry" the general populace, I think we need to educate them."

              I'm glad we agree.

              "Explaining to people about potential threa

            • Your response sounded to me like a complete dismissal of the whole situation, which is equally foolish.

              A complete dismissal by the general population is likely appropriate, though.

              You should be doing the same things you always do to avoid illness: wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you sneeze/cough, stay home when you're sick. If you're in a position where you're likely to encounter the disease (medical profession, travelling to areas that have seen high numbers of infections), then you should definitely study up on what you can do to promote general health (both others and your own).

              It's wron

      • by True Grit (739797) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nrubgocwde'> on Sunday June 14, 2009 @12:20PM (#28327039)

        look at all the fear mongering over bird flu and apocalyptic scenarios they told us to expect then

        Strange, I don't have those same memories. H5N1 is very deadly, but can't transmit human-to-human, and the people I heard talk of it said only if it learns to move directly between humans do we need to get scared. It was the *media* that ended up hyping things, not the WHO.

        If you want a real apocalyptic scenario then there's the idea that Swine flu both mutates to become worse

        Actually, what the WHO is worried about is the H1N1 strain linking up the existing H5N1 strains in Southeast Asia, combining the H1N1's ease of human transmission, with the H5N1's deadliness. H1N1 is part avian after all, it has a history of mutating and combining with other strains. Is it *likely*? No one really knows.

        I'll start worrying or even caring a bit more.

        The WHO's doing that for you, so you don't have to. Don't blame them for doing their jobs, blame the media for always hyping everything beyond its actual importance/relevance.

        • by Xest (935314)

          "The WHO's doing that for you, so you don't have to. Don't blame them for doing their jobs, blame the media for always hyping everything beyond its actual importance/relevance."

          Normally I would but as it was the director-general of the WHO that suggested the whole of humanity is at risk because of Swine flu I'd argue it's actually the WHO that's doing the hyping this time round, this is my problem with them right now. Even if you take that less explicitly and assume she meant the whole of humanity is at ris

          • by h4rm0ny (722443)

            Normally I would but as it was the director-general of the WHO that suggested the whole of humanity is at risk because of Swine flu I'd argue it's actually the WHO that's doing the hyping this time round

            Maybe you're misreading or whatever second-hand source you had was misreading it. Maybe by "whole of humanity is at risk" he means as opposed to "just Mexicans" etc. I.e. all countries could suffer from this because it's a pandemic. I don't know that this is what he meant, but it's a valid reading whereas "

            • by Xest (935314)

              Well here's the original article (a quick search for "Swine flu WHO humanity at risk" brings up plenty of other sources).

              The quote in full from the article:

              "She said action should be undertaken with "increased urgency".

              She added: "It really is the whole of humanity that is under threat in a pandemic.""

              I understand what you're saying, perhaps it's been misinterpreted, but the way it's phrased sounds quite alarmist, as I say in the best case it sounds like she suggested the whole of humanity is under threat o

              • by True Grit (739797) *

                I understand what you're saying, perhaps it's been misinterpreted, but the way it's phrased sounds quite alarmist

                Its not her job to tell everyone "everything's going to be ok", thats what politicians are for. It all boils down to how likely/unlikely you think a worst-case scenario is, and FWIW, I don't think her words were unnecessarily alarmist. If nothing else, the behavior of the 1918 pandemic (beginning as a mild strain but mutating within 6 months to a much deadlier form) justifies her not downplaying the current one.

                , as I say in the best case it sounds like she suggested the whole of humanity is under threat of catching it, but again even that's false because as I mentioned previously even the 1918 pandemic only affected 40% of the world's population I believe.

                Jeez, now thats some serious nitpicking there.

                If a lethal pandemic broke out and began killing

        • by Muad'Dave (255648)

          ...H1N1 strain linking up the existing H5N1 strains

          So that'll give us H6N2, right? Or maybe 5 * H-squared, N-squared? 8-)

      • by samkass (174571)

        It's not just that it could mutate and that it's more contagious... it's also peaking counter to almost any recent flu. The flu virus is packaged in lipids which tend to dissolve in heat, and aren't carried well in moist air. Add in some summer sun to sterilize surfaces and boost people's immune system with some vitamin D and you tend to get very little flu after March-April. We now have a virus that is peaking in June yet retains flu's ability to sicken and mutate, which implies that this fall could see

      • by AmigaMMC (1103025)
        personally, I'll file that alongside worrying about global nuclear war and alien invasion.

        You are not afraid of alien invasions? You gotta be crazy.
        Maybe this virus was sent by aliens. HA! What do you think of that huh?

        /me ducks under couch wearing tinfoil hat

      • The problem probably wont be the mortality rate, it will be the morbidity rate.

        Sure the number of people who die from the bacon lung wont be that different from seasonal flu, but the number of people who are simultaneously unable to work is a major problem for a pandemic. If half the medical professionals in a country are off sick at the same time it can be catastrophic.

        I'm not particularly worried about the virus changing into something with a higher mortality rate. I worry a little in the same way I worry

        • by Muad'Dave (255648)

          ...die from the bacon lung...

          You know, that sounds like a wonderful way to go.

          He died of "The Bacon Lung."
          Oh, he died happy, then.

      • by pjt33 (739471)

        It doesn't affect your main point about mortality rate, but this statement:

        In fact, outside of the Americas, despite thousands of cases, no one has died at all.

        ceased to be accurate on the day you posted it with the death of a Scottish lady [bbc.co.uk].

        • by Xest (935314)

          Yes, so I heard last night. I wondered at the time whether I'd jinxed things for us Europeans!

          Sounds like she had other complications though - giving birth prematurely whilst infected by it so it's still yet to take anyone healthy outside the Americas even if the fact it's taken anyone at all is still quite tragic.

          It'll be interesting (and again, tragic) if deaths outside the Americas become even more prominent and if they start occuring in healthy people at all or whether it'll be weeks again before someon

    • by itsdapead (734413)

      Why the panic?

      (Snip)

      We've all had worse diseases than this.

      Well, regular flu (esp. real flu rather than just a bad common cold) may not be the black death, but its still not something you'd wish on someone - especially if they're not in otherwise rude health - and even regular outbreaks put a huge strain on healthcare provision.

      So a new strain, which people may have no defenses against and isn't stopped by the usual annual vaccine given to vulnerable groups is nothing to be complacent about - especially in the early stages when you don't know how bad it is going

    • by rve (4436) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @10:41AM (#28326489)

      Can anyone explain why this virus is so different from all the others floating around? Why the panic?

      The case fatality rate (CFR) of the pandemic strain is estimated at 0.4% (range 0.3%-1.5%)

      We've all had worse diseases than this.

      It seems to be more infectious that seasonal flu, or people have less resistance to it. In a normal flu epidemic, only a few percent of the population gets infected. Most people either never catch a flu, or have it once every couple of years. The Spanish flu of 1918 had a total infection rate of up to 40%. If 40% of the population gets the Mexican flu, and the death rate remains at about 0.5%, it will be more deadly than the American civil war.

    • by dimeglio (456244)

      It is also said that this strain causes much more severe reactions that the regular flu. I've heard of very high fever, vomiting, severe diarrhoea, fluid in the lungs, etc. which typically urges a visit to a health professional, hence the relatively accurate count of infected people. Although it is not lethal in most cases, a combination of a predisposition to illness probably increase morbidity of H1N1.

      All we can do is get better at making vaccines quickly and all this will no longer be newsworthy.

    • I think it was cause the virus initially killed an abnormally high amount of young adults (the strongest immune systems). It led to speculation that H1N1 killed via cytokine storms (like the Spanish Flu is thought to have), but we haven't quite gotten around to proving that. Also, in the earlier stages, there was this conflict between the official story, and all the stuff we were hearing from the ground. Mexican doctors and nurses saying that infection rate was like 4 times higher or something.

      We basically
    • by Epistax (544591)
      Maybe it'll mutate a bit and swing back around killing nearly everyone who wasn't infected the first time because their immune systems won't recognize it in time. I'd go get myself infected just to be sure.

      /jk
      /who has the book rights to that situation anyway?
    • 1 because CNN is retarded and 2 because nobody is already immune to it so anyone could catch it. Yeah, I know, that's a stupid reason to fear monger but they don't even need a reason at all so this is good for them. But in the meantime, I've got an idea how to vaccinate yourself. If you're in remotely good health, just catch it on purpose, stay home for about 3-5 days, get better, and tada, you've got much more T-cells against it than any vaccine will give you.
    • But that's still 1.2 Million deaths in the US and 24 Million deaths world wide, at 0.4%. Are you prepared to deal with 1 in 200 people around you dying?
      • by Muad'Dave (255648)

        Are you prepared to deal with 1 in 200 people around you dying?

        Only if I get to choose who lives and dies.

    • by Cruciform (42896)

      There's a pretty good explanation of it on youtube by a fellow who goes by the name Thunderfoot [youtube.com].
      It could use a bit more detail on zoonotics and how they become easily transmissible in human populations, but its worth showing to those family members and friends who say it's not a threat.

    • Lots of reasons listed here: "The difference with H1N1 swine flu is that the virus is almost exclusively targeting people under 65." [bbc.co.uk]

      And Margaret Chan [who.int], quoted a bit more down on the page:

      "We know that the novel H1N1 virus preferentially infects younger people. In nearly all areas with large and sustained outbreaks, the majority of cases have occurred in people under the age of 25 years.
      In some of these countries, around 2% of cases have developed severe illness, often with very rapid progression to life-

  • Pandemic? (Score:5, Funny)

    by LordKaT (619540) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @09:30AM (#28326135) Homepage Journal

    It's not a pandemic until Madagascar fucking closes everything.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It can't be too bad...TFA has a picture of the drug label

      Novartis, an Umbrella Corporation subsidiary

      Oh shi...

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      It's not a pandemic until there's a vaccine that someone can make some money with.

  • Scariest (Score:5, Funny)

    by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Sunday June 14, 2009 @09:47AM (#28326209) Homepage Journal

    A Lion, a Polar Bear and a Pig were having a chat, and the conversation came round to how scary they were. The lion said "When I roar, people up to half a mile away run in terror!" The Polar Bear said, "That's nothing, when I growl people on the next island fear for their lives." "Bah!" said the pig, "if I sneeze, half the world shits itself!"

  • Quite frankly (Score:1, Insightful)

    with all the hype surrounding this, one might be tempted to start considering the possibility that some big pharma in search of the next blockbuster could have designed the virus, the vaccine, the initial test release in a remote village and subsequent dispersal in airports, and the fud campaign together.
    • by jperl (1453911)
      I don't think think they did. Otherwise I would be legend.
    • Wouldn't it make more sense to speculate that they are spreading prions that make people fat? There's far more money in heart disease and diabetes. The hole in your conspiracy theory is that vaccines are not very profitable.

    • Re:Quite frankly (Score:5, Informative)

      by rve (4436) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @10:52AM (#28326545)

      with all the hype surrounding this, one might be tempted to start considering the possibility that some big pharma in search of the next blockbuster could have designed the virus, the vaccine, the initial test release in a remote village and subsequent dispersal in airports, and the fud campaign together.

      Not feasible. Although it has been a popular theme in both Sci-fi and conspiracy theories, technology is still not advanced enough to design a virus. It is unthinkable that a laboratory would have advanced this far ahead of the rest of the scientific community in complete isolation and without ever publishing or filing for patents.

      It will almost certainly be possible one day, but not any time soon.

      • Filing a patent for a deadly disease that you intentionally infect the public with would be kind of stupid. People might figure it out. Funny no one has figured out that the flu always hits right after the shots. How can they predict what flu will be around in several months unless they have a crystal ball or some inside knowledge?
      • Well, it doesn't have to be designed from raw nucleotides. Just put a mix of a few existing strains into eggs, cultivate, check for mutations/reassortments and proceed with those. Easy as cake (made from the remaining eggs :)

        Think about it: vaccine makers are already cultivating the virus. It's a very small step from there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 14, 2009 @09:57AM (#28326269)

    The last time there was a swine flu panic, 1 person in the US died of the flu, 25 died of the vaccine that was rushed out and more than 500 were paralyzed by it. What are the odds it's going to happen again? No thanks, I'll sit this round out.

  • Why Why Why?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by XPeter (1429763) * on Sunday June 14, 2009 @09:58AM (#28326283) Homepage

    People get the flu EVERY SINGLE YEAR, H1N1 is no different. The WHO and the media make a big deal about this because the drug companies asked for their bailout too. It's quite simple; make the world panic (H1N1 being a pandemic is blasphemous) and everyone asks the pharmacudical companies to start pumping out drugs and the cash starts rolling in. I mean, look how much Novartis's stock has gone up http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=NVS [yahoo.com]. Don't feed the pig, please.

    If you want something to panic about, panic about the millions of people each year who die from easily treatable illnesses such as Malaria.

    • by maxume (22995)

      Malaria is decreasingly treatable. There are simple steps that can lower the chances of infection though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by that IT girl (864406)
      Because the pharmaceutical industry can scare everybody into paying them billions of dollars. Yes, billions.
      God, it's so nice to find someone else who doesn't buy into the bullshit.
    • Re:Why Why Why?! (Score:5, Informative)

      by True Grit (739797) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nrubgocwde'> on Sunday June 14, 2009 @11:58AM (#28326859)

      People get the flu EVERY SINGLE YEAR,

      Folks get a *different* strain of influenza every year.

      H1N1 is no different.

      Yes, it is. It is a different strain of H1N1 that we haven't seen before, a combination of parts of four other strains of influenza A.

      The WHO and the media make a big deal about this

      The WHO is making a big deal about it only because it is a new strain that hasn't been seen before, and its spreading rapidly, thus fewer people will have any built-in resistance to it. And this particular category of influenza A has a nasty history of mutating quickly.

      The media make a big deal about it because its news, but inevitably they end up over-hyping it since they're trying to fill 24/7 with 'interesting' news, and there just isn't enough to do that.

      (H1N1 being a pandemic is blasphemous)

      No. You just don't know what the meaning of the word 'pandemic' actually is. Hint: the number of casualties to the disease has *nothing* to do with its pandemic status. Look it up, it doesn't mean what you think it does.

      millions of people each year who die from easily treatable illnesses such as Malaria.

      Please define what you mean by "easily treatable". Malaria has no silver bullet, and the only available treatments which work consistently are really just preventative measures and are relatively expensive. And since the parasites behind Malaria are evolving resistance to the usual antimalarial drugs, for the most part, once you get it, you're cooked.

      Malaria is a highly *intractable* problem that occurs in the poorest parts of the world, which makes dealing with it nearly impossible. That's why its a chronic problem, its not something that would just go away if the whole world threw some money at it. Nobody knows *how* to get rid of it.

      • by XPeter (1429763) *

        Please define what you mean by "easily treatable". Malaria has no silver bullet, and the only available treatments which work consistently are really just preventative measures and are relatively expensive. And since the parasites behind Malaria are evolving resistance to the usual antimalarial drugs, for the most part, once you get it, you're cooked.

        Malaria is a highly *intractable* problem that occurs in the poorest parts of the world, which makes dealing with it nearly impossible. That's why its a chronic problem, its not something that would just go away if the whole world threw some money at it. Nobody knows *how* to get rid of it.

        Your kidding, right? If people actually put effort into treating diseases like malaria and AIDS they would go away. The problem is, it's just not profitable for the pharmacudical companies. I mean, who wants to help a third-world country when they won't get anything in return. It's all about the money.

        • by True Grit (739797) *

          Your kidding, right? If people actually put effort into treating diseases like malaria and AIDS

          Wait, AIDS is easy to stop too? Are you nuts?

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        millions of people each year who die from easily treatable illnesses such as Malaria.

        Please define what you mean by "easily treatable". Malaria has no silver bullet

        Pssssst Olive Leaf Extract [curezone.com]

        Whoops, can't patent that. People have been using it for thousands of years. You think Indians raised a lot of flak when attempts were made to patent Neem? Just see what happens with Italians when you try to patent olive trees. P.S. The anti-malaria drugs you can take to not get it in the first place tend to give you homicidal dreams. Not a joke. Some people report dreams of committing general violence including rape and torture, not only specifically murder. Scared of that.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by areusche (1297613)
          The drug you are referring to is Lariam, the trade name for Mefloquine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lariam [wikipedia.org]. There are many many more drugs available to combat against malaria then this that do not have this type of dangerous side effect.
          • Or the olive leaf, which has been effective for years and years, is natural, and has no bad side effects.
        • by True Grit (739797) *

          Whoops, can't patent that.

          The poor countries who need this "cure" the most aren't interested in patents. If it actually worked they'd use it and ignore any patent claims, just as Africa used generics for AIDS drugs instead of paying the higher costs demanded by the drug companies.

          No, I suspect the reason this is only listed on herbal sites as a remedy and not mentioned on any medical sites is that like much folklore, its often repeated... and still wrong.

    • by areusche (1297613)
      Why was this modded flamebait? The OP has a valid point!
  • by Doug52392 (1094585) on Sunday June 14, 2009 @10:16AM (#28326377)
    I live in Madagascar, you insensitive clod!
  • My only concern is that the vaccine is developed against the H1N1 virus (likely neuraminidase) that is currently circulating. It does have high human-human transmission rate, but mortality is 0.5% so far, so most of the cases are mild. What is WHO scared of is this virus becoming more virulent, by say mixing with H5N1 - mortality rate 60%, thus mutating and rendering the vaccine ineffective. At least so far based on structural and bioinformatics analysis the active site of neurmainidase (this is where Tamif
    • by mpe (36238)
      My only concern is that the vaccine is developed against the H1N1 virus (likely neuraminidase) that is currently circulating. It does have high human-human transmission rate, but mortality is 0.5% so far, so most of the cases are mild. What is WHO scared of is this virus becoming more virulent, by say mixing with H5N1 - mortality rate 60%, thus mutating and rendering the vaccine ineffective.

      If such a "hybrid" virus were to be so different from either of its parent strains that a vaccine would be ineffecti
      • If such a "hybrid" virus were to be so different from either of its parent strains that a vaccine would be ineffective could you easily tell how dangerous to humans it might be?

        Not easily, except by the very likely large scale obvious 'experiment'. There are models for different infectivity states of various hybrid influenza viruses, but I personally don't know much about them and a quick consulting of the oracle wasn't really helpful.

        Killing its host is completly against the interests of any virus.

        Tr

      • by RDW (41497)

        'If such a "hybrid" virus were to be so different from either of its parent strains that a vaccine would be ineffective could you easily tell how dangerous to humans it might be?'

        No, not easily. Both virulence and infectivity are hard to predict (though we have some knowledge of what sequence elements have been associated with particularly nasty flu viruses in the past, e.g. from looking at samples of the 1918 pandemic strain). We wouldn't know a dangerous new strain had emerged until, as in the case of the

  • by betasam (713798) <(betasam) (at) (gmail.com)> on Sunday June 14, 2009 @10:52AM (#28326541) Homepage Journal
    Using the new In-Cell growing technique many companies seem to be coming up with vaccines in a shorter period than earlier. Medicinenet has an informative article [medicinenet.com] on Flu Vaccines and immunization candidates, and goes on to say why they are required. This is a good read to understand why vaccination is being given importance here. The 1918 "Spanish" Flu epidemic Virus which is very similar to the recent outbreak was re-created in a laboratory in 2005 [umn.edu] by Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger and colleagues at AFIP. Comparison with Avian flu strains led to the conclusion that Human Flu Virus strains are derived from Avian flu virii.

    Among young people and children Flu vaccines claim to be 70%-90% effective, while this drops down to 30%-40% in people aged over 65 who may have other secondary complications. Hence the scale of vaccination required for the present outbreak (which has been repeatedly noted for not being as lethal as the 1918 Flu strain) may be entirely different covering only those in a risk category. More stress is on drugs that help in combating the Virus in an infected individual. These are usually amino-acid chain suppressors like Tamiflu. There has already been mobilization and distribution [swissinfo.ch] of the drugs to combat such an outbreak. The WHO has done a recent donation of drugs [sina.com] to Nigeria. This is however related to continued support of a H5N1 outbreak since 2006.

    The role and importance of the Vaccines that would be available is not yet certain. It seems that the stress is more on treatment. Insofar stress on prevention without the involvement of Primary Medical care personnel. Only those who suspect infection have been requested to visit quarantine or medical facilities for treatment. The W.H.O's present stand with the Flu Virus has been a direct result of criticism during the second widespread Avian flu H5N1 attack incidents [sina.com] in 2006. Attention is being given to Avian Influenza as a pandemic because it leads to complications and secondaries making it difficult to fight other diseases with stronger morbidity. -- No Greater Friend, No Greater Enemy! (Lucius Cornelius Sulla)
  • Amazing! Isn't there anything the Playstation 3 cannot do? ;-)

  • They would have made sure they had a vaccine ready before they released the virus.

    1. Create virus.
    2. Create vaccine.
    3. Release virus, and then generate as much fear and hysteria about said virus as possible, using organisations like the WHO to beat the drum for you, despite the fact that the mortality rate of said virus amounts to statistical line noise.
    4. Some months after the release of the virus, when a few people have died, and the "health authorities," have managed to stir public hysteria up to a f

  • Reading the comments so far makes me sad because:
    1. Most people are clueless about how much biology we know.
    2. Most people don't appreciate how effectively we can use that knowledge for our own good.

    Thanks to modern DNA sequencing, we were able to sequence the entire virus in a few days. Because scientists have sequenced thousands of other viruses, they were able to compare it and come up with its composition. With the DNA sequence, scientists were able to reproduce the protein coating which allows them to

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