A US company that was awarded a 35-million-dollar contract to develop an influenza vaccine using insect cell technology has produced a first batch against (A)H1N1 flu, company boss Dan Adams said.

“We turned out our first batch of doses — about 100,000 — against (A)H1N1 flu last week and we’re continuing to manufacture it,” Adams, chief executive officer of Connecticut-based Protein Sciences Corporation, told AFP.

The US Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday announced that it has awarded a 35-million-dollar contract to Protein Sciences, which could be extended for another five years to reach 147 million dollars.

The insect cell technology “has advanced in recent years to a point that we believe it could help meet a surge in demand for US-based vaccine for seasonal and pandemic flu,” Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.




Flu hits, and a family must decide how to react

Earlier this month, my husband was diagnosed with the flu. Fortunately, the kids and I kept our distance and managed not to catch it.

But in those days of wondering what the rest of us might be incubating, I found it hard to figure out the proper flu etiquette.

I’ve always tried to be responsible when my kids get sick. I call the parents of the kids with whom they’ve recently spent time. I keep them home from school for the recommended 24 hours after their fevers or other symptoms subside. I believe we parents have to stick together and do our best to try not to infect one another’s kids.

But having someone in your house get the flu at a time when there’s a worldwide flu pandemic makes it harder to know if you’re being discourteous or even careless.

His flu hit on a weekend when my three kids had five sporting events to attend. As I shuttled from field to field with all three in tow, neighbors and friends naturally asked about the whereabouts of my husband, who coaches several of the kids’ teams.

When I told people he had the flu, most responded by taking a few steps back from me and then asking, “The swine flu?”

I was greeted with a lot of confused and concerned looks when I explained that the doctor’s office only had a basic test that determines if a person has a form of influenza, not a test that determines what strain. Health officials have decided it’s necessary to give the specific test for swine flu only to people who become seriously ill. So my husband could have had swine flu, but we don’t know for sure.

Not surprisingly, this answer didn’t reassure many of the people I encountered. Several people hinted that perhaps I ought not to have brought my kids out to the ball field. A few asked if I would be bringing them to school on Monday.

That got me worried enough to call the doctor to double-check that it was OK for my still-flu-symptom-free kids to attend school and other activities. (It was.) Still, I worried we were going to end up as the family responsible for infecting the whole soccer team or an entire homeroom full of kids.

As the swine flu has moved into North Jersey, schools have been forced to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that a child displaying flu-like symptoms be kept home for seven days.

Seven days is a long time in the life of a school-age child, especially a teenager, who might be missing midterms and other school assignments that are tough to make up.

High school seniors, in particular, might have suffered some huge disappointments if they came down with a fever in these last weeks of school, pointed out Judy Mullane, a Glen Rock elementary school nurse and president of the state high school nurses association.

“Proms, graduations, these are once-in-a-lifetime events that you’d hate to think about your child missing,” Mullane said. “These are hard choices for parents. But you have to be prudent and think of the risk to others.”

Missing graduation seems minor when compared with spreading illness to a child who has a suppressed immune system or other conditions that could turn the flu into a life-threatening disease. But it’s a milestone most kids would surely be sad to miss, especially if they, like my husband, felt as if they had recovered after a few days.

Our decision not to quarantine the entire family because of my husband’s diagnosis was not an irresponsible one, said Dr. David Namerow, a pediatrician in Fair Lawn, where a cluster of swine flu cases has been documented.

Physicians and other health care professionals are not telling parents to keep all siblings home from school if one of their children is sick from the flu, he said.

“There’s no way of knowing for the most part if somebody exposed is necessarily going to get the flu,” Namerow said. “And the reality is that children have to be with other children. If they don’t encounter each other at school, they are still interacting with each other in all public places. You can’t keep your children in a bubble.”

When I learned my husband had the flu, I decided not to let my 4-year-old attend the birthday party of one of our friends’ daughters because they also had a 4-week-old baby.

Babies under 2 months old are among those at-risk groups that it’s better to avoid if anyone in your house has the flu, Namerow said.

The flu spreads from person to person primarily through exposure to oral secretions – if an ill person coughs in the face of someone else or shares eating utensils, or doesn’t wash their hands after coughing and then shakes another person’s hand.