Video: U.S. ramps up H1N1 vaccine distribution

  1. Closed captioning of: U.S. ramps up H1N1 vaccine distribution

    >>> dying of the disease itself.

    >>> now the latest on the outbreak of swine flu across the country. following the release of a nasal mist , the first swine flu shots are expected to be available this week and health officials continue to insist the vaccine is safe. we get the latest tonight from nbc's ron allen .

    >> reporter: this weekend at bates college in maine they're trying to stop swine flu in its tracks, setting up a mass inoculation center when the dose of the vaccine arrived.

    >> we've made lots of inroads so far to do prooefx. if we can control the outbreak of disease in school we can control it in the community.

    >> reporter: federal health officials say this week along with more nasal spray , the first injectable vaccine will reach the public. as they try to ramp up distribution for the most vulnerable, children, pregnant women and health care workers.

    >> the next two to three weeks we expect will lead to widespread availability.

    >> reporter: the swine flu outbreak has hit every state and hitting the youngest harder. 76 children have died since april, a figure comparable to the typical number of deaths for an entire flu season . swine flu struck this family of minnesota who lost 6-year-old na nate than.

    >> the h1n1 weakened him enough so it got into the tissues of his heart and cause it had stop.

    >> reporter: experts say most sickened have underlying conditions, asthma, lung disease , diabetes. across the country there's debate about whether shots are safe and effective.

    >> enforced medical treatment is an assault and violation of the 14th amendment .

    >> in new york state some health care workers are fighting a new requirement to get flu shots to keep their jobs. in fayette vilt, georgia she was among the first to get his children vaccinated.

    >> we're expecting our third baby in the next few weeks.

    >> reporter: health officials agree swine flu vaccine is safe.

    >> we have experience with literally hundreds of millions of people that have received similar vaccines over many years.

    >> reporter: across the nation the flu is such a concern in some communities you can roll down your window and roll up your sleeve for a seasonal flu shot. as more swine flu vaccine becomes available, health officials hope demand for it is just as strong.

    >>> tragedy in idaho. a bus

updated 10/12/2009 4:20:46 PM ET 2009-10-12T20:20:46

Rapidly worsening breathing problems in the sickest swine flu patients in Mexico and Canada present a scary worst-case scenario and could foreshadow what U.S. doctors face as winter flu season sets in, new reports suggest.

In the global outbreak's first wave, many critically ill patients in both countries were obese, although their death rates weren't higher than others. Many in both countries also were younger than those typically hard hit by seasonal flu, as has been found in the United States.

Patients studied worsened quickly after being admitted to hospitals. Most survived after intensive, lengthy treatment, although the death rate in Mexican patients studied — 41 percent — was much higher.

The reports were published online Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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They aren't a true snapshot on prevalence. But a JAMA editorial says they provide clues on what hospitals elsewhere may see in coming months.

A report on U.S. cases published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine provided similar guidance. It found that one-quarter of Americans sick enough to be hospitalized with swine flu last spring needed intensive care and 7 percent died.

In the Mexican report on six hospitals between March and June, critical illness developed quickly in 58 of almost 900 patients with confirmed or suspected swine flu patients — a rate of just under 7 percent. But 24 of these sickest patients died within two months, said the study led by Dr. Guillermo Dominguez-Cherit of the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition Salvador Zubiran in Mexico City.

Video: Swine flu affecting children The Canadian study, led by Dr. Anand Kumar of the Health Sciences Center and St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, involved 168 critically ill patients treated at 38 hospitals between April and August. The 90-day death rate was 17 percent.

The JAMA editorial noted that while treatment including antibiotics, antiviral drugs and mechanical breathing machines has advanced since the deadly 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, many U.S. hospitals may lack adequate staffing levels to provide timely treatment if critical swine flu cases surge.

Deaths that result from inadequate planning "will be especially tragic," the editorial said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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