It was a year ago that the term “H1N1″ entered the American consciousness, stamped in 72-point tabloid type. In April 2009 researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered that two children in California had been infected with a new strain of influenza virus ? what would become known as H1N1 ? even as Mexican health officials grappled with major outbreaks of a new flu-like illness. By the end of the month, with new cases popping up in New York City, Canada and Europe, officials had come to realize they had a global emergency on their hands.
On April 27, 2009, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan announced that the agency would raise the global flu pandemic alert level, from 4 to 5 ? the first concrete step toward acknowledging that the world was caught in the grip its first new pandemic in more than four decades. “This virus has the potential to spread very widely,” said Chan at the time.
(See “The Year in Health 2009.”)
Within weeks the H1N1 virus was spreading around the world, and by June the who had raised the alert level again, officially declaring an influenza pandemic. Since most people had no immune protection against the H1N1 virus, which had been simmering in swine populations for years before jumping into human beings in Mexico, it spread rapidly.
The Bangladeshi government is set to kick off the pandemic vaccination campaign on May 4, as the World Health donated vaccines are due to reach shortly, China’s Xinhua news agency reported, citing a local daily on Tuesday.
The campaign is also an awareness programme as the number of A/H1N1 influenza positive cases are increasing in the nation.
“The campaign will start on May 4 with the training of civil surgeons and other key officials in Dhaka,” Mahmudur Raman, director of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), was quoted as saying by leading English newspaper The Independent on Tuesday.
Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) will follow the recently adopted “national plan of action on pandemic influenza vaccination “to conduct the campaign with the help of IEDCR, the national focal point on the pandemic influenza.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) will give 15.5 million vaccines, Raman said adding that the first consignment of 2.5 million vaccines will be used to protect the most vulnerable groups from the novel virus that has so far killed seven people in the country.
A 34-year-old woman became the first in Bangladesh to die from complications of the A/H1N1 flu this year on Friday.
A total of 329,691 health workers will first receive the vaccines to ensure no disruption in the healthcare services if the country sees further outbreak of the virus.
Some 1.98 million pregnant women of third trimester (last 14 weeks) are also the target group of the first round vaccination.
According to the plan, the training will be imparted at national,city corporation, municipality, district and sub-district levels.
The second consignment of 13 million vaccines will come one month after the delivery of the first consignment and it will be given to the people at risk of severe diseases, including diabetes, chronic respiratory, cardiac, renal, liver and neurological diseases, all pregnant women, and young adults aged above six months.
The IEDCR chief Raman said the total number of the identified flu cases in the country stood at 968 till Monday while the number of cases were 814 until December, 2009 since recording its first A/ H1N1 case on June 18 of the same year.
From the start, the vast majority of H1N1 cases seemed relatively mild, but officials still had to work to keep the population from panicking. “This is obviously a cause for concern,” said President Barack Obama on April 27, 2009. “It’s not a cause for alarm.”