Swine flu test authorized for troops overseas
WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it has authorized the emergency use of a swine flu test for U.S. troops overseas, allowing the military to speed up diagnoses and treatment of a virus that could cause widespread infections again this fall.
The FDA emergency authorization lets the Defense Department distribute the swine flu test to its qualified laboratories that have the right equipment and personnel to perform and interpret test results. The FDA authorized the swine flu diagnostic test for the public in April.
The authorization allows for the use of unapproved medical products or unapproved uses of approved medical products during a public health emergency, the FDA said.
The FDA said the test will help to speed up diagnosis of H1N1 infections so that deployed troops can quickly begin treatment.
The Defense Department will use the test for combat units in the Middle East and on Navy ships, beginning with deliveries next month, according to a statement from the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.
The announcement comes as the government is gearing up for the arrival of a vaccine. First supplies are likely by October but most not until the Thanksgiving season.
Swine flu was declared to be a pandemic, or global outbreak, by the World Health Organization in June, and it is expected to make a strong return in the fall and winter. The WHO has said the virus has killed nearly 1,800 people worldwide.
A presidential advisory panel said in a report presented Monday that a “plausible scenario” for the United States later this year is large-scale swine flu infections, possibly with 30,000 to 90,000 deaths, mostly among young children and young adults, and perhaps as many as 300,000 sick enough to require intensive care unit treatment at hospitals.
Seasonal flu typically causes 30,000-40,000 annual deaths, mainly among people over 65.
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Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense: tinyurl.com/nas9y4