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. WHO chief doubts speedy swine flu vaccinations

World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan. Photo courtesy of AFP.

British bishop bans holy water to halt swine flu
A bishop in Britain has advised his diocese to ban holy water from churches in a bid to halt the spread of swine flu. The Bishop of Chelmsford in eastern England has suggested sprucing up hygiene in churches by removing receptacles for water. "Some churches have a stoup for holy water near the entrance to the church door, and people are invited to dip a finger in this, and to make the sign of the cross as a reminder of their baptism. "The water contained in stoups can easily become a source of infection and a means of rapidly spreading the virus," said The Right Reverend John Gladwin. "This practice should be suspended." In a set of directives sent to priests in the county of Essex that includes Chelmsford, Gladwin said they should advise members of their congregation who have flu-like symptoms to stay at home. Gladwin also urged caution when taking Holy Communion to residential homes, warning if anyone had flu-like symptoms the "priest alone should drink wine from the chalice." Chaplain Chris Newlands added: "People need to be reassured that the church is doing everything it can to stop the spread of infection." Britain is Europe's worst hit country, with 17 people dying after contracting swine flu.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) July 15, 2009
The world's top health official said Wednesday a vaccine to combat the surging swine flu pandemic would not be readily available for months as the number of deaths from the virus spiralled.

The comments by World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan came as Australia and Japan reported a surge in cases of the A(H1N1) virus, and Argentina dramatically upped its death toll from 94 to 137 in just three days.

"There's no vaccine. One should be available soon, in August. But having a vaccine available is not the same as having a vaccine that has proven safe," Chan told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"Clinical trial data will not be available for another two to three months," she added, contradicting health officials in Britain and elsewhere who said the first stocks would start arriving in August.

WHO director of vaccine research Marie-Paul Kieny, calling the pandemic "unstoppable", had said Monday that a swine flu vaccine should be available as early as September.

Germany said it envisaged having to order some 25 million doses of vaccine to immunise nearly a third of its population.

Australia, the Asia-Pacific region's worst-hit country, has already placed an advance order for 21 million doses -- enough to immunise its entire population.

Australia and Argentina are now in the southern hemispheric winter, and officials fear a major rise in infections when the northern hemisphere enters the colder months and regular influenza becomes rampant.

Italy may have to deal with between three and four million cases of swine flu by March 2010, deputy health minister Ferruccio Fazio said.

He said that by the end of this year some 8.6 million Italians would have been vaccinated against the A(H1N1) virus, with priority given to the most vulnerable and to emergency workers.

Argentina's new death toll made it the worst-hit nation in terms of fatalities after the United States, which has 211 deaths and 37,000 confirmed infections according to the latest tally.

Mexico, the third most afflicted country with 124 deaths and 12,521 infections, said late Tuesday that swine flu cases were picking up in the southeast, especially in Chiapas state near Guatemala.

Health ministers from six South American countries were to meet Wednesday to seek a coordinated response. Argentina was to host the meeting of ministers from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Not including the latest figures from Argentina, the WHO's global death toll from swine flu stands at 429 with more than 94,500 infections tallied worldwide.

Australia said its total of swine flu cases had reached 10,387, more than 10 percent of the WHO's global total. The country suspects swine flu was the culprit in the deaths of some 20 people.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the real number could be much higher, and warned that health authorities were now worried about a growing number of serious cases in young people.

"We do see that there are some people who are young and otherwise healthy who have the rapidly deteriorating disease ... it's obviously concerning," she said.

Some 15,000 doctors in Peru called for a nationwide protest on Wednesday to demand better prevention against swine flu, which has claimed at least five lives and infected around 2,000 people in the South American nation.

"We demand addressing adequately the needs of hospitals in order to prevent further mistakes in the treatment of swine flu and to avoid more deaths," Leoncio Diaz, president of the Peruvian Medical Federation, told AFP.

Fears over swine flu also prompted French football club AS Nancy to scrap a pre-season trip to Britain, which is Europe's worst hit country.

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Australia swine flu tally hits 10,000, virus 'prefers young'
Melbourne (AFP) July 15, 2009
Australia's swine flu cases topped 10,000 Wednesday as officials in the worst-hit Asia-Pacific country reported two more deaths and warned the virus "preferred young people." Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the national tally was now 10,387, more than 10 percent of the global total confirmed by the World Health Organization with 123 people in hospital. South Australia and Queensland ... read more

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