Friday, July 24, 2009
THE HYSTERIA that ensued after the initial outbreak of the swine flu has dissipated. But the H1N1 virus continues its steady and rapid progression around the world. Just ask the 22 high school students from Maryland and the District who were quarantined after their arrival in Beijing last week when one of them was found to have a high temperature and flu-like symptoms. Their experience is a reminder that this pandemic demands vigilance and preparation. That's why the announcement of swine flu vaccine trials should hearten those who are girding themselves for the fall flu season.
At the direction of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, eight university research hospitals and medical groups across the country -- including the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Center for Vaccine Development -- will soon enroll 1,000 adults, seniors and children to test a potential vaccine. The trial will start with 200 healthy adults and 200 seniors. Two strengths of the vaccine will be tested to see which comes closest to triggering an immune response to protect against swine flu. If participants tolerate the vaccines, then researchers will test them on 600 children ages 6 months to 17 years old.
The institute says these trials "are being conducted in a compressed time frame" to beat the onset of the fall flu season. Those who want to volunteer for the trials in Maryland can do so in Baltimore, Frederick and Annapolis. If you're thinking of volunteering, go to http://www.clinicaltrials.govor call (410) 706-6156.
Let's hope it works. While the flu is working its way through the Southern Hemisphere, where it is winter, it hasn't stopped spreading during summer here, and experts fear it might come back with a vengeance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 263 deaths in the United States as of July 17. Because this is well below the average death rate for regular seasonal flu, there's no reason to panic. As long as people take common-sense precautions, U.S. exposure to this global menace can be minimized.