Flu News Day, 11/14/2022
November 14th’s Flu News Day features the WHO’s interview with Anni Virolainen-Julkunen and updates on ongoing efforts in COVID-19 and influenza vaccine development and more. Read here to catch up on the latest in influenza news and funding.
GISRS secrets to success: an interview with Anni Virolainen-Julkunen
Since 1948, the World Health Organization has played a critical role in surveillance of seasonal influenza pandemics and pandemic threats caused by avian and other animal influenza viruses. The Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) also plays a central role in surveillance of novel coronaviruses, monitoring influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses simultaneously in over 100 countries. Currently, WHO member states have considered expanding GISRS to integrate influenza, SARS-CoV-2, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and possibly other respiratory viruses by further integrating laboratory and epidemiological surveillance. Read the interview with policymaker Anni Virolainen-Julkunen who shared insights on what makes the network critical and unique.
Afraid of needles? China using inhalable COVID-19 vaccine
Chinese pharmaceutical firm CanSino Biologics introduced the first inhalable COVID-19 vaccine last week. Regulators in China approved the vaccine for use as a booster. The vaccine, inhaled via the mouth from a vessel that looks like a take-out coffee cup, uses an adenovirus vector, which virologists believe will provide better protection than the inactivated vaccine technology currently used for COVID-19 vaccines. Experts also believe an inhalable method could improve protection as it produces an immune response in the respiratory system, where the virus first enters the body. China continues to adopt a “zero-COVID” approach where entering an office building or other public places requires a negative COVID test. According to the World Health Organization, currently about a dozen nasal vaccines are being tested globally. You can learn more about China’s new inhalable vaccine here.
Pfizer, BioNTech start COVID-flu combination vaccine study
The first participant in a trial by US drugmaker Pfizer and German company BioNTech SE to evaluate a combination vaccine targeting COVID-19 and influenza was dosed last week. The early-stage study aims to enroll 180 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 64. The single-dose vaccine is a combination of an mRNA-based flu shot and the current COVID-19 booster shot tailored to Omicron variants of the virus. Companies Novavax and Moderna have also initiated an early-stage study to test the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of combined flu and COVID-19 shots. You can read more about the trial here.
U.S. Approaches Record Number of Avian Influenza Outbreaks in Wild Birds and Poultry
After reports of record-breaking avian influenza cases in Europe last month, the US has now reported a record number of birds affected by bird flu. The number of states affected in 2022 is double the number affected in 2015. Nearly 49 million birds in 46 states have been culled or died due to exposure to the virus. While overall risk to the general population is low, there is an elevated risk among occupationally exposed people. Exposure to the virus results from close, prolonged, and unprotected contact with infected or dead birds, or surfaces contaminated with the virus. You can learn more about the outbreak and precautionary measures listed by the CDC here.