U.S. Encounter With Swine Flu Highlights Health System Weaknesses

As the number of H1N1 (swine flu) cases in the U.S. continues to wane, the New York Times reflects on how federal officials handled the pandemic and other factors that helped the situation. "The outbreak highlighted many national weaknesses: old, slow vaccine technology; too much reliance on foreign vaccine factories; some major hospitals pushed to their limits by a relatively mild epidemic," the newspaper writes. However, "the relatively cautious decisions by the nation’s medical leadership contained the pandemic with minimal disruption to the economy," the New York Times adds, before highlighting several key decisions as the pandemic unfolded.

The article also notes: "The virus and the vaccine cooperated. While the former proved highly transmissible in children, it was only rarely lethal, remained susceptible to drugs and has not thus far mutated into an unpredictable monster. Vaccine supply was a problem, but one small dose was enough" (McNeil, 1/1).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.