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FDA Approves System to Make Donated Blood Safer

FDA Approves System to Make Donated Blood Safer | Healthcare and Technology news |

The first system that destroys viruses and bacteria in donated blood plasma has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Intercept Blood System provides an extra measure of protection against viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C and could make transfusions safer, The New York Times reported.

However, some experts point out that the blood supply in the United States is already considered safe and using the Intercept system would be an extra, unnecessary cost.

"The nonprofit blood collection industry can't afford it," Dr. Michael Busch, director of the nonprofit Blood Systems Research Institute and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, told The Times. "Blood is extraordinarily safe now."

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Deadlier Flu Season Is Possible, C.D.C. Says

Deadlier Flu Season Is Possible, C.D.C. Says | Healthcare and Technology news |

This year’s flu season may be deadlier than usual, and this year’s flu vaccine is a relatively poor match to a new virus that is now circulating, federal health officials warned on Thursday.

Flu is unpredictable, but what we’ve seen thus far is concerning,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The C.D.C. has alerted doctors to the problem and has urged them to prescribe antiviral drugs like Tamiflu to vulnerable patients with flu symptoms without waiting for a positive flu test.

The season has only just begun, but 91 percent of the approximately 1,200 samples tested thus far are of the H3N2 subtype of influenza A, Dr. Frieden said. Almost all the rest were influenza B. There were almost no samples of the H1 subtype, a descendant of the 2009 swine flu strain.

Years in which H3 subtypes are more common than H1 subtypes tend to lead to more hospitalizations and deaths, he added.

Moreover, about half of those H3 subtypes — or about 45 percent of all the samples tested so far — are of a new H3 subtype that this season’s flu vaccine does not protect well against.

The new subtype first appeared overseas in March, Dr. Frieden said. Because it was not found in many samples in the United States until September, it is too late to change the vaccine, he said.

The flu vaccine is now usually grown in cell broths rather than in chicken eggs, as it was just a few years ago. That speeds up a process that once took at least six months — but it still takes about four months.

The C.D.C. still recommends that all Americans get flu shots because they are as protective as usual against the older H3 strain, influenza B and the small numbers of H1. And they may provide at least a weak defense against the newer H3.

But because of the increased danger from the H3 strain — and because B influenza strains can also cause serious illness — the C.D.C. recommends that patients with asthma, diabetes or lung or heart problems see a doctor at the first sign of a possible flu, and that doctors quickly prescribe antivirals like Tamiflu or Relenza.

Those medications are “not miracle drugs,” Dr. Frieden saidd. The earlier they are given in the illness, the better they work, and all they usually do is shorten the illness by one day — but in a vulnerable patient, that may mean the difference between death and survival.

Five children are known to have died from flu-related illnesses this season, Dr. Frieden said.

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