The World Health Organization is warning
against complacency and urging countries to prepare for a possible
pandemic from the Swine Flu A-H1N1 virus. The annual World Health
Assembly got off to a vigorous start with a high-level consultation to
assess the current global situation.
an unusual move, this year's World Health Assembly has been shortened
from nine to five days so health ministers can get home to deal with
the swine flu crisis.
Director-General Margaret Chan told representatives of 193 countries
attending the high-level consultation they cannot afford to let down
their guard in a world that is highly mobile and interdependent.
said all governments must cooperate with each other. They must share
information openly and coordinate their actions to prevent the new
virus from taking hold.
noted everyone is under pressure to make urgent far-reaching decisions
in an atmosphere of considerable scientific uncertainty.
have lived for five long years under the threat of a pandemic caused by
the lethal H5N1 avian influenza virus. This has left our world better
prepared. but also very scared ... We need to warn the public when
necessary, but reassure them whenever possible. This is a difficult
balancing act," she said.
WHO figures show 40 countries reporting nearly 9,000 cases, including
more than 70 deaths from swine flu. Most infections are found in
Mexico, the United States and Canada. Countries outside North America
that are most heavily affected are Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Richard Besser, said the virus is spreading rapidly throughout the
country. He said seasonal flu is still circulating in the United
States, but the new virus now accounts for about half of all cases
have aggressively undertaken the steps toward vaccine development. We
sent five different virus isolates to different labs around the world.
These labs will help us evaluate which virus isolate would be the best
candidate for a vaccine. We expect to have results by the end of the
month," he said. "Our best analysis suggests that this novel H1N1 virus
is likely to circulate worldwide, similar to other seasonal flu
viruses. Because the virus is new, we expect more people to become
infected and even if the virus is not highly virulent, more people will
be susceptible. There will be more illness, more hospitalizations and
more strain on essential services," he cautioned.
agree there is a false perception in many parts of the world that the
swine flu H1N1 virus is winding down. They said the outbreak is not
over and soon will be traveling to the southern Hemisphere. They said
they will have to carefully monitor the impact of the virus on
vulnerable populations in some of the poorest countries of the world.