Flu Season Update

October 4, 2005

"There is some drama associated with influenza every year," said George Kent, MD, associate director of the Center for Education in Family and Community Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "In 2004, it was the surprise vaccine shortage and the surge in demand, followed by a very ordinary year in terms of disease. This year, we appear to have plenty of vaccine, except for avian influenza, for which we have no vaccine at all."

"There is some drama associated with influenza every year," said George Kent, MD, associate director of the Center for Education in Family and Community Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "In 2004, it was the surprise vaccine shortage and the surge in demand, followed by a very ordinary year in terms of disease. This year, we appear to have plenty of vaccine, except for avian influenza, for which we have no vaccine at all."

How the current flu season will close next spring is anybody's guess, Dr. Kent told a noontime session at the American Academy of Family Physicians Scientific Assembly. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects about 96 million doses of vaccine, the agency created its first tiered vaccination schedule in case last year's shortage reappears.

The vaccine supply this year includes a live attenuated intranasal produce indicated for healthy individuals aged 5-49 and four killed virus intramuscular vaccines indicated for patents older than six months.

A human vaccine against avian influenza is being developed, Dr. Kent said, but remains in testing. Computer modeling suggests that a pandemic can develop in about six months, he continued, and vaccine production takes about 100 days. If a human outbreak occurs, vaccine will be available in extremely limited quantities if at all.

Enforced quarantine of victims and their contacts is likely, he added and family physicians will probably be called upon to enforce quarantine conditions.