Dr. Thomas Frieden

Pediatric H1N1 Deaths Increase; Last of Stockpiled Tamiflu Depleted

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today reported that there are now 114 laboratory-confirmed pediatric deaths from H1N1 influenza since the start of the 2009 flu season. That is 19 more pediatric deaths since CDC’s report last week, representing one of the largest single jumps since the tallying began. Two-thirds of the 114 fatalities confirmed also had underlying conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and lung disease, the agency said.

“There’s a certain rhythm with the spread of influenza within a community,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. “You see it first in children, then in older adults, then in the number of hospitalizations, and then, tragically, in deaths. We are expecting to see, sadly, increasing numbers in all categories.”

Frieden said cases of H1N1 flu are widespread in all 48 contiguous states, despite a noted decrease in cases of late in the southeast United States. Frieden reminded the nation that the flu season lasts until May 2010 and already there have been more H1N1-related hospitalizations in the under-65 population than in most entire flu seasons.

The director said that as of today, 26.6 million doses of H1N1 vaccines have been made available for U.S. states to order. That is an increase of 10.5 million doses since last week this time and an increase of 1.8 million doses just since yesterday. Despite those numbers, however, he said the availability of the medicine “is still not as widespread as we’d like.” He noted that many areas of the country are experiencing shortages of the vaccine, describing these areas as “spot shortages.”

On Oct. 1, the secretary ordered the release of 300,000 courses of liquid Tamiflu for children to be shipped out to states from the strategic national stockpile. Because the demand for the medicine has continued to exceed the supply, the remainder of the stockpile—234,000 additional doses—will be shipped in coming days. Frieden said that when that is sent, the federal stockpile of liquid Tamiflu will be depleted.

“We have ordered additional courses of [pediatric liquid Tamiflu], and we’re looking forward to delivery early next year if they stay on schedule,” Frieden said. Meanwhile, he added, more chain pharmacies are encouraged to practice compounding the medicine—converting the capsule forms of it into liquid doses. He said the government is open “to all possible considerations for” a generic form of the medicine if it were FDA approved.

Frieden noted that while H1N1 cases continue to rise, CDC has not found any genetic change or mutations in the virus to suggest it has become more deadly.

When asked if he had any special Halloween-related precautions for parents, Frieden said, “Have fun. Stay safe. And, yes, if you’re sick, stay home.”

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