Swine Flu Update: College "Holding Pen"; Novartis Shot Ready, and More

Swine Flu Update: College "Holding Pen"; Novartis Shot Ready, and More

by Lynn Shapiro, Writer | September 11, 2009
The latest on a growing threat
With a new school year beginning and flu season looming, the U.S. is planning a vaccination campaign against the H1N1 flu for kids at schools and community centers across the country where kids can get free shots, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says. Vaccines are expected to be ready by mid-October but will not offer full protection until mid-November.

Holding Pen at Emory

College students unlucky enough to have caught the flu are being quarantined in what the kids at Emory University in Atlanta have dubbed "holding pens." About 100 Emory students are being sequestered, The New York Times reports.

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There are now more than 2,000 swine flu victims on college campuses, according to an American College Health Association survey.

Every Sneeze and Sniffle

Parents of younger kids are calling their doctors, concerned about their every sneeze and sniffle. But it appears that the H1N1 virus, now circulating in the Southern Hemisphere, is mild, and appears to be much like seasonal flu. Still, CDC officials say, it is possible swine flu might mutate into a more virulent form when it re-emerges this fall. Everyone is bracing for this possibility.

High-Risk Patients Should be Medicated

Children with nerve and muscle disorders, who can't cough hard enough to clear their airways, are at higher risk for complications and should get quick treatment with either Tamiflu or Relenza if they catch the flu, as these drugs could save their lives.

And doctors should give high-risk patients prescriptions in advance, so they can fill them quickly if needed, CDC says. CDC adds high-risk patients should not wait for lab tests before receiving treatment.

"The very young and very old, and people with chronic medical conditions ought to be treated with antivirals [like Tamiflu and Relenza] when they have an influenza-like illness," CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters at the government's Tuesday swine flu briefing.

Most kids and adults will not need drugs; so far, they have recovered on their own. "They can be cared for with mom's chicken soup at home, lots of fluids and rest," Dr. Schuchat says.

She adds that, "virtually all the influenza circulating now in the United States is the 2009 H1N1 strain. It has not mutated and the vaccine is still a good match."

While CDC officials are trying not to hype the possible dangers of the virus, they are worried that people will develop resistance to Tamiflu and Relenza.

Kids' Warning Signs

In normal children, the warning signs for swine flu include: fever, fast or labored breathing, bluish or gray skin, and vomiting. If a child feels better but then relapses with a high fever, call the pediatrician immediately, experts say.