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Swine Flu Now Officially A Pandemic

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, June 11, 2009 1:34 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Swine Flu, Influenza, World Health Organization, Pandemic, Public Health, CDC, Virus, H1N1

Swine flu is now raised to a Phase 6 alert, the highest which signifys community transmission.  

Swine Flu Now Officially A Pandemic

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IMAGE SOURCE: Swine Flu in Hong Kong/ New York Times Web site

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) is moving the worldwide swine flu pandemic up to a Phase 6, which describes a full-scale pandemic.  Letters were sent to member countries today warning them that the novel H1N1 virus alert is now at its highest level.

Phase 6 indicates that influenza A (H1N1) is moving freely through communities in more than two countries, North America and Australia, among others. 

The New York Times reports Australia has a reported 1,263 cases as of today, while the numbers are rising in Japan, Chile and Britain. The Phase 6 designation indicates the transmission rate, not the severity of the outbreak.

The death toll stands at 141 in 74 countries with more than 27,000 cases of infection and experts believe the numbers might be much higher.  Spain, Britain, Japan and Australia all have reported cases of H1N1.

In Hong Kong, after an outbreak at a local school, all kindergartens and primary schools have been closed for at least two weeks.  Hong Kong has five million doses of flu vaccine on order.

There were concerns about moving the pandemic to a Phase 6 because of its potential to confuse the public and cause panic. Since this strain is far less virulent than was expected, many people may become complacent if Phase 6 is not perceived as a serious health threat.  

As it moves through populations, the concern is the virus has the potential to become more lethal and may return with increased strength during the winter influenza season. 

The last global pandemic was the Hong Kong flu of 1968 that killed an estimated one million people.  More severe outbreaks have been the pandemic of 1918 that killed more than 50 million and the bird flu pandemic that’s been moving throughout Southeast Asia since 2003 and kills more than half of the 433 it has infected, reports the Washington Post

Annually, the seasonal flu outbreak kills at least 250,000 worldwide. 

Vaccine Update

The declaration may speed up development of a vaccine. Several countries have signed contracting waiting for manufacturers to deliver. 

A new vaccine is developed from portions of viruses supplied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that are then grown over a period of four to six months before they are available as a vaccine. 

U.S. Deaths

In California, an Orange County man has died of swine flu this week, while last week a 9-year-old girl in Contra Costa County died from the influenza. She did have an accompanying bacterial infection that may have contributed to her death.   

In New York City, 15 have died from H1N1. A telephone poll, reported by the New York Times, finds 6.9 percent of more than 1,000 surveyed reported flu like illnesses or a sore throat during much of May. 

The CDC reports that the virus originated in Mexico and the first U.S. case was reported in mid-April. At that time it was determined H1N1 was quickly spreading from person-to-person.  By June, all 50 states have reported the novel H1N1 infection.  

The CDC has a state-by-state breakdown listed on its Web site, which includes 27 deaths in the U.S.  #


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