H1N1 pandemic developments at a glance – October 29


Developments Thursday in the H1N1 pandemic in Canada and around the world:

The federal government came under heavy criticism from the opposition Liberals, who say delays in rolling out the national vaccination program are costing lives.

Liberal MP Bob Rae told Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq that people have died due to delays in ordering and distributing the vaccines and warns more lives will be lost.

Industry Minister Tony Clement fielded the bulk of Rae’s criticism, saying six million doses of pandemic vaccine will be delivered nationwide by Friday.

So far, 89 people have died from the H1N1 virus and more than 1,600 have been hospitalized.

Toronto residents are the latest to clamour for the H1N1 flu vaccine.

Lineups began as early as 6 a.m. Thursday as two immunization clinics opened. By mid afternoon, officials were sending newcomers home while promising that those already in line would get their shots.

At a clinic west of the city, the high demand even forced road closures.

Residents complained of disorganization, shouting slogans such as “this is not a third-world country.”

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews defended the province’s vaccination rollout strategy, saying it’s up to local officials to co-ordinate the mass immunization.

She urged people who do not have underlying health conditions and are not members of priority groups to let those who are more vulnerable get vaccinated first.

Vaccination programs continued to roll out across Canada.

Officials with Alberta Health Services say demand continues to exceed expectations, with people in Edmonton and Calgary waiting upward of five hours to get vaccinated.

In Manitoba, nearly 15,000 people have already been vaccinated, including more than 2,200 people who had visited Winnipeg’s 12 flu clinics as of Tuesday afternoon.

Nova Scotia officials said the flu’s so-called “second wave” has arrived in that province, with 80 new cases so far this fall.

In British Columbia, where the second wave is widely acknowledged to have struck first, three more people with the H1N1 virus have died in the past week.

In Saskatchewan, the Sun Country Health Region in the province’s southeast is opening a flu assessment site in the town of Estevan to ease the burden of H1N1 on emergency rooms. More than half of the 50 confirmed swine-flu cases in the region involve children under 15.

A new U.S. study suggests drugs used to help lower cholesterol may also be effective in treating swine flu.

The study looked at people who had been hospitalized for seasonal flu symptoms and found that those on statin drugs such as Lipitor or Zocor were twice as likely to survive as those who were not.

More studies are needed to determine whether statins can cure the flu or whether it’s worth taking them after becoming infected.

Results were discussed Thursday at an Infectious Diseases Society of America conference in Philadelphia.

British officials say swine flu cases in England increased by 56 per cent last week.

That is based on the Britain Health Protection Agency’s estimates that there were 39,000 to 169,000 new cases last week, compared with 27,000 to 115,000 the week before.

The estimates, based on statistics such as doctor visits and calls to the nation’s swine flu hot line, have a wide margin of error.

The agency said that swine flu was mainly hitting children under 14.

Public health officials confirmed that the sudden death of 13-year-old Evan Frustaglio was a direct result of swine flu.

The Toronto teen, an avid hockey player with no known health conditions, was taken to a walk-in clinic Sunday and advised to take over-the-counter medications. He appeared to be recovering on Monday, but collapsed later in the day and died within 10 minutes.

On Saturday, 10-year-old Vanetia Warner of Cornwall, Ont., also died from H1N1 under similar circumstances; she was sick for several days before her condition rapidly deteriorated. It was not immediately clear whether she had any underlying medical conditions.

The company manufacturing Canada’s supply of flu vaccine says tests show seniors have a strong response to the injection.

GlaxoSmithKline says a study done in Europe showed 88 per cent of people aged 61 to 70 and 86.7 per cent of people aged 70 to 85 saw an antibody rise that’s thought to predict protection after a single dose of the vaccine.

The vaccine in question contained an adjuvant, or a compound designed to boost the immune system’s responsiveness.

Health officials in the U.S. say a shortage of pandemic vaccine appears to be easing thanks to an influx of supplies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there are more than 22 million doses of swine flu vaccine available throughout the country, up from just 14 million last week.

Experts initially predicted the U.S,. would have 120 million vaccine doses ready to go by mid October.