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Glaxosmithkline Share News (GSK)

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Share Price: 1,555.00Bid: 1,500.00Ask: 1,560.00Change: 0.00 (0.00%)No Movement on Glaxosmithkline
Spread: 60.00Spread as %: 4.00%Open: 1,544.00High: 0.00Low: 0.00Yesterday’s Close: 1,555.00

UPDATE 3-Flu reaches epidemic level in U.S., says CDC

Fri, 11th Jan 2013 23:12

* Nine of 10 U.S. regions have 'elevated' flu activity

* Scientists s
ay vaccine is 62 percent effective

* Flu may have peaked early in some regions

(Updates with detail on vaccine effectiveness, control efforts

in Boston)

By Sharon Begley

Jan 11 (Reuters) - Influenza has officially reached epidemic

proportions in the United States, with 7.3 percent of deaths

last week caused by pneumonia and the flu, the U.S. Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

The early start and fast spread of flu this season -

especially after 2011-2012's very mild outbreak - has

overwhelmed doctors' offices and hospitals, forcing some

patients to wait through the night to be seen in emergency


Nine of the 10 U.S. regions had 'elevated' flu activity last

week, confirming that seasonal flu has spread across the country

and reached high levels several weeks before the usual late

January or February, CDC reported.

Only one region - the Southwest and California - had

'normal' flu activity last week.

Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from flu, even

in non-epidemic years. The threshold for an epidemic is that it

causes more than 7.2 percent of deaths, but as yet there is no

definitive count of the total caused by flu this year.

In Boston, flu cases are 10 times higher than they were last

year, causing Mayor Thomas Menino to declare a public health

emergency on Wednesday.

In Illinois, 24 hospitals struggling to cope with the flood

of flu cases had to turn away people arriving in the emergency

department, while in Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley Hospital

outside Allentown has set up a tent for people who arrive with

less-severe flu.

A total of 20 children have now died from this season's flu,

up two from the previous week, the CDC said. That compares to 34

during the full 2011-2012 flu season and 282 during the severe

2009-2010 season.

The outbreak has led to attempts at prevention that go

beyond the standard advice of getting vaccinated, avoiding

contact with sick people and frequently washing hands with soap.

In Boston, the Catholic Archdiocese has told priests they

could suspend the offering of communion wine using a shared

chalice and bow rather than shake hands while exchanging the

Sign of Peace, a Christian greeting.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Deeley urged priests to use hand

sanitizer before and after communion and to avoid touching

congregants' tongues or hands. He said parishioners who were ill

'should remain at home and return to church when they are well.'


While flu vaccines offer protection, they are not failsafe.

This year's flu vaccine is 62 percent effective, scientists

reported on Friday in the CDC's weekly publication, meaning that

almost four in 10 people who receive the vaccine and are exposed

to the virus will nevertheless become infected.

This is considered 'moderate' effectiveness and is in line

with previous years' flu vaccines, which range from 50 percent

to 70 percent effective, Dr. Joseph Bresee, chief of the CDC's

influenza division, told reporters.

Experts recommend the vaccine for everyone over 6 months of

age. Even if it does not prevent flu, immunization can reduce

the severity of the illness, preventing pneumonia and other

life-threatening results of flu.

Public health authorities were correct in their forecast of

which flu strains would emerge this season and therefore what

vaccine to make: one that contains two strains of influenza A

and one strain of influenza B. An A strain, called H3N2,

predominates this season, though the B strain has caused about

20 percent of cases.

About 10 percent of cases have been caused by a B strain

that is not in the vaccine, which 'has space for only three

strains,' CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said.

Dr. Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan, a co-author

of the vaccine-effectiveness study told Reuters this year's

vaccine was 'a good vaccine, but not a great vaccine.'

It is less effective for the frail elderly, for people

receiving chemotherapy for cancer, and for people taking oral

steroids, as their immune systems have been weakened and are

often unable to produce an effective number of antibodies in

response to the vaccine.

One reason flu vaccines are far from perfect, said Monto, is

where in the body the viruses find a home - congregating on the

surface of small airways in the respiratory tract, while

virus-fighting antibodies that are stimulated by vaccines mostly

stay in the bloodstream.

According to the most recent CDC data, 37 percent of

Americans - 112 million people - had received the flu vaccine as

of mid-November.

Of the 135 million doses produced this year, 128 million

have been distributed to doctors' offices, drug stores, clinics

and other facilities.

Although public health officials believe enough doses were

produced, some spot shortages have developed. 'You may have to

call a few places,' before finding one with vaccine, said the

CDC's Bresee, 'but it should be available.'


In its weekly flu update on Friday, the CDC reported that 24

of the 50 U.S. states as well as New York City had experienced

'high activity' in flu-like illnesses last week. In 16 states,

activity was moderate, while in 10 it was low or minimal.

The 24 states reporting high activity was down from 29 the

previous week, raising hopes that the disease may have peaked in

some regions, particularly the Southeast, and that a flu season

that began early may also end early. It typically starts in

December, peaks in January or February and peters out by late

March or early April.

The percentage of visits to healthcare providers last week

for flu-like illness - 4.3 percent - is comparable to that

during the 2007-2008 flu season, which was characterized as

'moderately severe' but which peaked some two months later. By

comparison, in the 2009 H1N1 'swine' flu pandemic, 7.7 percent

of visits were for flu-like illness.

(Reporting by Sharon Begley in New York and Daniel Lovering in

Boston; Editing by Vicki Allen, Eric Beech and David Brunnstrom)

(( 646 223 4876)(Reuters


Keywords: USA FLU/

(The CDC's teleconference is available at

Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. All rights reserved.
The copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters.

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