Mar 29, 2013

Nursing Students Required to get Flu Shots

Via: TheShortHorn
While some students have to decide whether they want a flu shot, other students don't have a choice. A flu shot is mandatory for UTA nursing student before starting their clinical rotations. A clinical rotation is time a student spends at a hospital to get nursing experience. Clinical instructor Deborah Hughes said a flu shot is mandatory because the institutions they attend for clinical rotations require the students to get the shot. “The reason for that is because nurses and students are taking care of very sick patients, and if that student or nurse has the flu, they can give it to that very sick patient and that can be detrimental to the patient’s wellness," she said. Nursing junior Angie Espinoza said she didn't get the flu shot until she joined the nursing program. “I never got the flu shot because of my personal opinion," she said. "I really don’t see the point of it, but the shot is required, so I got it.” But there may be UTA nursing students who have allergic reactions to eggs or egg whites or have religious beliefs against shots and, therefore, cannot get the flu shot. If that is the case, there has to be documentation showing proof for why they cannot get.
 UTA nursing students can still go to clinical rotations without getting the shot, but there are several things that must be done first. Hughes said students would have to sign a waiver and follow any precautions the hospitals give to the students. “They just have to sign a form that says why they didn’t get the flu shot and let the institutions be aware they do not have the flu shot," she said. “Some of the hospitals will make you wear a mask when caring for the patients.”  Nursing junior Blanca Garcia said she got the flu shot and about a week later felt flu-like symptoms. She hadn't started her clinical rotations yet, but she still went to UTA's Smart Hospital for training. “I felt really bad but still went to the Smart Hospital because I didn’t want to miss any learning,” she said.
 If a student does get sick and has to miss clinical rotations, Hughes said they have to call the faculty member prior to starting the clinical rotation and the student has to make up that time. “We will provide them with a case study. It's additional paperwork they would have to do or an alternate clinic site to make up the time," she said. "Also, it depends on the faculty member and the course, what else needs to be done. For the students to pass their clinical, they have to attend all the clinical hours that are required by the course because all of our clinicals are passed or failed.”
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Mar 28, 2013

Can A Video Game Alleviate Flu Shot Fears in Children?

 Predictive programming at its finest with a video game to condition the kids to associate the fun of playing games with the innate fears of being injected with poisons.
Via: NBC 
Doctors and a team of college video game designers have collaborated on a new video game they hope will alleviate children's fears about getting a flu shot.

The flu shot can be scary especially for 10-year-olds like Nick Hernandez.

"I'm not a fan of the needle."

Enter Flu-Busters, a video game designed to help kids with their fears of getting the flu shot.

"When we looked ... A lot of our patients, especially the adolescents, were not getting immunized."

To turn his idea about a flu video game into reality, Krilov turned to ... Who else? Big kids.

"I hated needles, too but I hated getting the flu more."

Senior Sam Zarahn was part of a team of video game students who worked with professor Elena Bertozzi to design the game in just a couple of months.

"We sat around thinking, 'How can we make getting a shot something kids would want to do?'"

The ten minute game puts kids in different school situations where they're exposed to flu germs.

If they make the right choices, they can walk away without getting sick.

"The biggest challenge for designers was making it fun for kids... Their answer was to create a superhero named Vaccine Man and to turn flu germs into a disgusting green villain."

"I just wanted to create something that was gross"

Gross or not hospital staff have been testing the game on kids at outpatient clinics.

So far all the youngsters who have seen it have agreed to get a flu shot.

"But now I understand the dangers of the flu."

The hospital hopes to make the game available to kids everywhere.

Mar 27, 2013

Research to resume on deadly artificial strain of H5N1 virus

Via: South China Morning Post
Experiments with a deadly, artificially mutated version of the bird flu virus are set to resume in a few weeks, ending a year-long suspension in research prompted by a global outcry over the risks.

Two groups of scientists in the Netherlands and the US altered the H5N1 virus to make it easily transmissible among mammals. Some scientists warned that a deadly pandemic could break out if the mutant virus escaped accidentally or if terrorists stole it or made it themselves, using articles in scientific journals .

The outcry led scientists conducting the experiments to declare a voluntary moratorium a year ago, in part to let research institutes and governments decide what safety rules to require.

Now, flu researchers say, the moratorium should end because most countries have rules in place. A letter from the same 40 scientists who called for the moratorium last year was published yesterday in the journals Science and Nature, saying it is time for the work to begin again in countries ready to allow it. Signatories include Hong Kong researchers Guan Yi and Malik Peiris.

Leo Poon Lit-man, associate professor at the University of Hong Kong's school of public health, said the university had no plans so far for research to make the bird flu virus stronger or more transmissible. He said a group of researchers signed the letter as a gesture to support the controversial research .

"The only way … to control the virus and come to a prevention plan is to allow the research to go forward," Poon said. Though he has not signed the letter himself, he spoke on behalf of the research team that supported the move, including researchers Yi and Peiris.

"The issue is highly controversial and we understand different people hold different points of view. H5N1 is still a threat to humans, and it is true that the research may pose some risk. But we may also benefit from it, as we need further understanding of the virus to ensure a better response in case of an outbreak.

"We think it is time to draw a conclusion that the research has to go on," Poon said.

Researchers will restart projects in countries where governments have approved biosecurity measures, according to the letter signed by 40 researchers. This does not currently include the US, the scientists wrote.

The US is expected to approve its own rules for dealing with the mutant virus within weeks.

Ron Fouchier, a virologist who conducted some of the original experiments at the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands, said research was needed to test the effectiveness of vaccines and antiviral medications against a mutated virus that could be spread by mammals.

The first cases of H5N1 emerged in Hong Kong in 1997, setting off alarm bells worldwide. Six of the 18 victims died. It re-emerged in 2003 in Southeast Asia and other countries, infecting some 600 with a mortality rate of almost 60 per cent, according to the Geneva-based WHO.

All but a few victims have caught the disease from birds. Scientists' worst fear is the virus spreading among mammals.
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Mar 26, 2013

Vermont Vaccination Bill Seeks to Remove Philosophical Exemption Forms

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont bill that removes a philosophical exemption for parents who want to skip the requirement that their children get a series of vaccinations before being allowed to attend school is back before legislators. The bill is designed to deal with a state whooping cough outbreak. The Shumlin administration says it won't support the bill.
 Vermont Public Radio reports ( Health Commissioner Harry Chen says his department can make solid progress on the issue without engaging in another legislative battle. Last year, the exemption removal from the state's mandatory childhood immunization law was one of the most contentious debates of the session. Rep. George Till has introduced a similar bill that would remove philosophical and religious exemptions for pertussis vaccinations. He points to last year's outbreak of 645 pertussis cases.
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Mar 25, 2013

F.D.A. Approves “Flublok” Vaccine: New Insect-Based Flu Vaccine

Via: TheNews
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) gave regulatory approval to a new influenza vaccine called Flublok on Wednesday, January 16. Flublok is produced by Protein Sciences, a small company based in Meriden, CT, and serves as the world’s first highly purified, egg-free, recombinant flu vaccine. “We’re very pleased with the FDA approval because it validates our platform technology,” said Dr. Penny Post, Vice President of Regulatory at Protein Sciences and wife of Choate science teacher Mr. Deron Chang, on behalf of the company. “Flublok represents the next step in improving the technology for vaccine development.”

Dr. Post’s Background

With a strong background in biochemistry and cell biology, Dr. Post first joined Protein Sciences Corporation in April of 2000. She has since then held management positions in the company’s Process Development, Manufacturing, Quality Control, and Quality Assurance departments, according to the Protein Sciences website.

Promoted to Vice President of Regulatory in 2011, Dr. Post served as the liaison between Protein Sciences and the F.D.A. in the final stages of Flubok’s development and approval. “Starting from 2003 until today, Protein Sciences did all the final development of the product, and I’ve been involved in every department,” said Dr. Post. “It’s rare for a scientist to be able to be part of bringing a product to market… this is definitely the most significant accomplishment in my career to date.”

Although Protein Sciences was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2009, the company won a $147 million contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop Flublok, according to an article published in The New York Times on June 23, 2009.

Current Flu Season

Regulatory approval of the new influenza vaccine is welcomed amidst one of the most austere flu seasons in recent memory. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 129 million flu vaccines have been distributed so far this year in the United States, and many Americans are searching for the remaining stock as the number of ready-made doses continues to dwindle.

Yet Dr. Post maintains that the timing of Flublok’s approval has no correlation with the present flu season conditions. “Everything is on a specific timetable with the FDA from when you file your license,” she said. “We filed information in July for Flublok which we knew was going to be the last piece that the F.D.A. required prior to approval, and at that point we knew they had until January 16th to finish reviewing that information.”  

“It’s just incredible timing that it ended up being a really bad flu season, and then our vaccine is approved right in the middle of it,” Dr. Post added.
According to the F.D.A. website, flu vaccinations are traditionally developed by inoculating fertilized chicken eggs with the influenza virus. After several days of amplification, the virus is then inactivated and purified. Such a process is done months before a vaccination’s intended flu season and may leave behind traces of viral as well as egg proteins in the final product. A frequent problem with the egg-based vaccine, Dr. Post noted, is that “the strains represented in the vaccine are often times different from the viral strains making people sick because the egg process is a relatively long method of production.” Because flu strains in circulation are constantly evolving, a vaccine produced months in advance of its intended use may not produce the correct protective antibodies required to subdue a changed virus.

An Egg-Free Vaccination

However, Flublok, Ms. Post explained is comprised of hemagglutinin, a surface influenza virus protein derived from the genetic engineering of a baculovirus. Dr. Post explained that to make the protein-based vaccine, genetic information for hemagglutinin is put into the baculovirus, which then infects fall armyworm insect cells. “The virus uses all of the cell’s machinery to manufacture the protein we want,” she said. “The cells grow in a bioreactor to make a large batch of hemagglutinin, and then the protein goes through a purification process that removes all the insect and viral proteins that we don’t want.”

Although the manufacture of Flublok requires the use of a live virus, Dr. Post asserts that the vaccine’s production platform nurtures a safe final product. “The baculovirus can only infect the insect cells; it can’t infect mammals, and it can’t infect and replicate in humans,” she commented. “So it’s a very safe platform… it’s not something that poses a danger to humans.”

Because of the trace amounts of egg protein in standard influenza vaccines, Flublok serves a safer alternative to those with egg related allergies. In addition, the modern recombinant DNA technology involved in the product’s production, which does not depend on egg supplies, allows for a faster development of vaccinations for seasonal uses and in cases of pandemics.

Yet the F.D.A. kept a close eye on Protein Sciences’ use of recombinant technology during the Flublok project. Despite having approved two other vaccines using the same methods employed by the company, the F.D.A. still considers the usage of insect cells as a “novel cell substrate” for vaccine production, according to the F.D.A. website. “One of the hurdles to the project was completing the qualification of our cell substrate to F.D.A. satisfaction,” said Dr. Post. “We had to do extensive testing to show that this [Flublok] is safe for humans.”

Protein Sciences has manufactured 150,000 2012-2013 composition Flublok vaccines ready for distribution. Although the vaccine is approved only for adults 18-49 years old, it has, received praise from the federal government. In a statement released on January 18, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), Nicole Lurie, stated, “Our nation has reached a landmark in influenza vaccine history with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a new seasonal flu vaccine, called Flublok, made with novel technology…. The approval…of the new vaccine produced with this modern technology stands as one of the most significant improvements in flu vaccine technology in the past 50 years.”
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