A Serious Concern When you have the president of the United States going on national television as he did yesterday to instruct Americans how to cover their mouth when they sneeze (use your sleeve, not your hands), you know you have a potentially serious situation. President Obama said the federal government is taking a coordinated approach to fighting the expected outbreak this fall, including ramping up what he says will be a "voluntary but strongly recommended" H1N1 flu vaccination program. The president is receiving regular briefings on the flu pandemic.
The H1N1 virus (swine flu) first came to light to most Americans in April. While the effect was fairly mild, health officials expect a stronger impact this fall and winter. According to a planning scenario issued late last month by the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology and cited by the Washington Post, half of all Americans could be infected with the virus and as many as 90,000 could die -- more than double the typical death toll from seasonal flu. The medical community could be overwhelmed by the outbreak, which could lead to as many as 1.8 million patients being hospitalized in the U.S., according to the planning scenario.
Obama said steady progress is being made on developing a swine flu vaccine and that a huge inoculation program will begin soon. According to the World Health Organization, swine flu is now the dominant strain of influenza across most parts of the globe and new research suggests that the new H1N1 virus spreads more quickly than the seasonal strains and causes more serious disease. There has even been an iPhone swine-flu app just released this week called Outbreaks Near Me, which lets users track and report outbreaks of swine flu and other infectious diseases in their areas.
Potential Plays On Outbreak Developments This Fall/Winter We expect many headlines during flu season over the coming months. Since many investors are already familiar with the swine flu stocks, the purpose of this report is to differentiate the legitimate stocks from the momentum names. It's also to recap what happened in April during the swine flu scare as we anticipate investors will be looking to bid up the movers from last time around on any swine flu developments.
Legitimate Beneficiaries: Gilead (GILD) for its Tamiflu drug, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which sells a competing flu medication called Relenza clearly benefit as governments will stockpile these products. These companies are so large that the near-term revenues won't move the earnings needle much. However, despite their size, both stocks did jump in late April when the swine flu outbreak was first discovered. See table below for more names, including CRXL, QDEL, SVA and NVAX.