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Swine flu sweeping world at 'unprecedented speed': WHO

US to hold emergency meeting on swine flu vaccine
US immunization experts have called an emergency meeting to map out a plan for vaccinating Americans against swine flu when influenza season returns in the coming months, a health official said Friday. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will hold an "emergency or off-cycle meeting" on swine flu on July 29, said Anne Shuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "They will be deliberating on recommendations for which populations should be targeted for vaccination with the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, and they will also be deliberating on whether prioritization, or tiering, of potentially limited vaccine supply would be appropriate," Schuchat told reporters. Pharmaceutical companies around the world are in the early stages of developing a vaccine against the (A)H1N1 flu virus, and concern has been raised that the vaccine will not be ready or available in sufficient quantities for a mass immunization campaign when the northern hemisphere's flu season returns with the cooler autumn weather. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week at a flu summit held just outside Washington that clinical trials on a first candidate vaccine against swine flu were expected to begin next month. The tests would take "a couple of months" to determine whether the vaccine is safe and effective and what the appropriated dosage should be, Fauci said. On Wednesday, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Margaret Chan warned that a vaccine to combat the swine flu pandemic would not be readily available for several months. The CDC said 263 people have died of swine flu in the United States and more than 40,000 infections with the virus have been confirmed. US officials believe around a million people have already had swine flu in the United States, but went under the radar because the virus caused only mild infection and they did not seek medical care.
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) July 17, 2009
Swine flu has swept the globe at "unprecedented speed," the World Health Organisation said Friday, as a study warned the pandemic could tip the world into deflation and delay the economic recovery.

The WHO said it would stop giving figures on the numbers infected by the A(H1N1) virus to allow countries to channel resources into close monitoring of unexpected developments and patterns in the spread of the disease.

Argentina, meanwhile, issued a nationwide alert after pigs were confirmed to have the swine flu virus, health authorities said.

"We have detected clinical cases of the A(H1N1) influenza in a pig farm in Buenos Aires province, they have been confirmed by laboratory tests," the national farm and food standards agency said.

In Brazil, the number of deaths from swine flu nearly tripled to 11, including the first person shown to have caught the virus spontaneously within the country.

The increased tally given by Health Minister Jose Gomes late Thursday added seven to the four fatalities previously given.

The WHO said in an information note on its website the influenza pandemic had "spread internationally with unprecedented speed."

"In past pandemics, influenza viruses have needed more than six months to spread as widely as the new H1N1 virus has spread in less than six weeks."

The Geneva-based health agency said the counting of all individual cases was no longer essential to assess the risk from swine flu.

"WHO will continue to request that these countries report the first confirmed cases and, as far as feasible, provide weekly aggregated case numbers and descriptive epidemiology of the early cases," it added.

While it eased its overall reporting requirement, the WHO called on all countries to "closely monitor unusual events," such as possible clusters of severe or fatal infections, or unusual patterns that might be associated with worsening disease.

In Britain, a study by Oxford Economics -- a forecasting consultancy whose clients include multinational corporations and government -- said recovery could be delayed by a couple of years due to the swine flu pandemic.

"Although so far the social and economic impacts have been very small, if infection rates were to rise much further, significant costs could be expected," it said.

Comparing the outbreak to the 2003 SARS crisis, it said that outbreak had occurred at a time of strong economic growth. Both consumption and growth had returned as soon as the epidemic was considered under control.

"This time around, such a sharp rebound is unlikely," it said.

"There is a risk that swine flu tips the United Kingdom and the world economy into deflation. This is because the pandemic would hit at a time when businesses and banks are still reeling from the economic crisis."

On Thursday, England's chief medical officer Liam Donaldson said that in a worst case scenario, around one in three Britons could be infected and 65,000 could die.

The WHO policy shift was partly motivated by the "mildness of symptoms in the overwhelming majority of patients, who usually recover, even without medical treatment, within a week of the onset of symptoms."

In some countries, the investigation and laboratory testing of all cases had absorbed huge resources, leaving health systems with little capacity to monitor severe cases or exceptional events that might mark an increase in the virulence of swine flu.

In the last table released by the WHO on July 6, the health agency had recorded 94,512 laboratory-confirmed cases in 136 countries and territories since April, including 429 deaths.

earlier related report
WHO stops giving global swine flu tally
Swine flu is moving around the globe at "unprecedented speed," the World Health Organisation said Friday, as it stopped giving figures on the numbers affected worldwide.

The WHO said in an information note on its website Friday that it would focus on regular updates from newly affected countries, in order to keep track of the global progress of the new influenza A(H1N1) pandemic.

The influenza pandemic had "spread internationally with unprecedented speed," according to the Geneva-based UN public health agency.

"In past pandemics, influenza viruses have needed more than six months to spread as widely as the new H1N1 virus has spread in less than six weeks."

"The virus passes from human to human very efficiently, even without symptoms" for a carrier, added WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl.

More widespread air travel and international business and tourism since the last flu pandemic some 40 years ago was also a factor, he said. The WHO has avoided recommending travel restrictions since A(H1N1) first appeared in April.

The agency said the counting of all individual cases was no longer essential to assess the risk from swine flu, so it was best to watch the virus's appearance in new territories.

"WHO will continue to request that these countries report the first confirmed cases and, as far as feasible, provide weekly aggregated case numbers and descriptive epidemiology of the early cases," it added.

While it eased its overall reporting requirement, the WHO called on all countries to "closely monitor unusual events," such as possible clusters of severe or fatal infections, or unusual patterns that might be associated with worsening disease.

The policy shift was partly motivated by the "mildness of symptoms in the overwhelming majority of patients, who usually recover, even without medical treatment, within a week of the onset of symptoms."

"Moreover, the counting of individual cases is now no longer essential in such countries for monitoring either the level or nature of the risk posed by the pandemic virus" or to guide the best response, the UN health agency added.

In some countries, the investigation and laboratory testing of all cases had absorbed huge resources, leaving health systems with little capacity to monitor severe cases or exceptional events that might mark an increase in the virulence of swine flu.

"For all of these reasons, WHO will no longer issue the global tables showing the numbers of confirmed cases for all countries."

The global tally given by the WHO three times a week until recently was based on laboratory confirmed cases from each country.

In the last table on July 6, the health agency had recorded 94,512 cases in 136 countries and territories since April, including 429 deaths.

However, several countries had already stopped lab testing of cases, while the health officials in the United States and Britain have underlined that many more people had probably been infected than the confirmed caseload.

The United States has the highest death toll from swine flu of any country in the world, with 211 dead and more than 37,000 confirmed cases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the CDC estimated last month that one million Americans could have been affected by swine flu since it first appeared.

Some 250,000 to 500,000 people around the world die of regular seasonal flu every year, according to the WHO.

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Australia eyes 'worst-case' swine flu toll
Sydney (AFP) July 16, 2009
Australia warned Thursday it could face 6,000 swine flu deaths this year in a "worst-case scenario", as nervous governments tried to curb the pandemic and keep tabs on potentially risky public events. The gloomy projection came as the number of A(H1N1) infections grew around the world, with Canada saying more than 200 school children had contracted the virus at summer camp. Australian ... read more







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