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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine flu: All humanity at risk

 Global Cases Top 250 n WHO Changes Disease's Name n Mexico Shuts Economy

The number of people confirmed to have swine flu has risen above 250, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday, adding that it would stop using the term "swine flu" to avoid confusion over the danger posed by pigs. Instead the virus will be called Influenza A H1N1.
    The announcement came after the WHO raised its global epidemic threat level to

phase five—the second highest level—in recognition of the growing number of countries affected by the virus.
    Health experts believe it is only a matter of time before the WHO raises the alert to phase six, confirming a pandemic is in progress.
    More than a dozen countries have reported cases of the H1N1 strain, many of them in Europe. The Irish Republic confirmed its first case on Thursday, an adult male who has recently returned from Mexico. The Nether
lands and Switzerland also confirmed their first cases—a three-year-old child and a 19-year-old student respectively— both of whom had travelled to Mexico.
    The Swiss student was mistakenly released from a hospital after test results were misinterpreted and then hastily readmitted. Switzerland has a further 29 "suspicious" cases. In Britain three new cases

were confirmed, bringing the total to eight, while Spain, the worst affected European country so far, raised its confirmed cases to 13, with another 84 under observation.
    In France, medical authorities were conducting tests on 41 people for possible swine flu and said five of those were considered "probable" cases.
    Françoise Weber, head of the state health monitoring agency InVS, said three of the people considered probable cases had been in Mexico.
    Meanwhile, the WHO came
close to ordering production of a pandemic vaccine, a move which has been described as a significant decision as it would mean disrupting the production of seasonal flu vaccines. "We don't have enough evidence to push the pandemic vaccine button," WHO chief Margaret Chan said.
    Chan urged help for developing countries, warning that they faced a potentially greater threat from a flu pandemic than wealthy nations with developed health systems and funding for drugs.
    "We know that influenza may cause mild disease in affluent countries, but more diseases with higher mortality in developing countries," she said.
    "The international community should treat this as an opportunity to ramp up the response. After all, it is really all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic," she added.

    In Mexico, the outbreak's epicentre, President Felipe Calderon told his people to stay home from Friday for a five-day partial shutdown of the economy.
    Calderon ordered government offices and private businesses not crucial to the economy to stop work to avoid further infections from the new virus, which has killed up to 176 people in Mexico.
    "There is no safer place than your own home to avoid being infected with the flu virus," Calderon said in his first televised address since the crisis erupted last week. AGENCIES

US Vice President Joe Biden sparked controversy on Thursday when he said he is advising his own family to stay off airplanes and subways because of the swine flu. "I would tell members of my family—and I have—that I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," Biden said Thursday. Biden went beyond any precautions recommended by the federal government. In discussing his personal advice to his family, he said simply, "That's me."
The 39-year-old woman who was the first to die in Mexico's swine flu epidemic spent the last eight days of her life going from clinic to clinic to find out what was wrong with her but doctors were baffled. The woman, from the southern state of Oaxaca, died shortly after being admitted to hospital as an emergency case. Experts only identified the virus that killed her 10 days later
Tests confirmed a US Marine has fallen ill with swine flu and about 30 other Marines he came in contact with have been quarantined. The US Centers for Disease Control "confirmed one case of H1N1 here" at the marine base at Twentynine Palms in southern California, the US Marine Corps said on Wednesday
France pressed for a European Union ban on flights to Mexico after the confirmation of the first human-to-human transmission of the virus in Europe

HANGING FOR LIFE: A woman rushes a child suspected of being sick with swine flu into a hospital in Mexico City on Thursday

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