Thursday, April 30, 2009

U.S. `Fully Expects' More Severe Cases of Swine Flu, CDC Says

Cases of swine flu in the U.S. will grow in severity and spread to more states, U.S. health officials said today, even as they stressed the response to the illness is “going well.”

Vaccine development is under way with the help of drug manufacturers and 600 million doses may be ready in six months, said Rear Admiral W. Craig Vanderwagen, U.S. Health and Human Services Department assistant secretary for preparedness and response, at House health subcommittee hearing today in Washington. The H1N1 virus appears to be susceptible to the stockpiled flu treatments, Roche Holding AG’s Tamiflu and Relenza from GlaxoSmithKline Plc, that are now being distributed to states, he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified 109 cases of flu caused by the H1N1 virus in the United States, while the World Health Organization has found the virus in 11 countries. Health workers don’t know yet how dangerous the virus will ultimately be, said Rear Admiral Anne Schuchat, interim deputy director for the CDC’s Science and Public Health Program.

“We fully expect to find more cases, also of severity of illness,” Schuchat told the lawmakers at the hearing. “It’s a very unusual virus and we don’t believe humans have experienced it before these cases we’re seeing. We don’t have good information about how dangerous it is. We’re in early days of understanding how severe it is.”