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H1N1 Cases On Decline In Southern Hemisphere, WHO Says

The number of H1N1 (swine) flu cases are steadily declining in the Southern Hemisphere as the region’s flu season comes to an end, the WHO said Friday, the Associated Press reports (Engeler, 8/29).

“WHO is advising countries in the Northern Hemisphere to prepare for a second wave of pandemic spread,” the agency said in a written statement. “Countries with tropical climates, where the pandemic virus arrived later than elsewhere, also need to prepare for an increasing number of cases” (WHO Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 briefing note 9, 8/28). According to WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl, flu levels remain higher than normal in South Africa and Bolivia. “Hartl said the agency was watching flu rates in Japan, where it believes that the high season for infections is starting earlier than normal,” the AP writes (8/28).

As of August 23, the WHO has confirmed more than 209,000 cases of H1N1 worldwide, including 2,185 deaths, Bloomberg writes (Serafino, 8/28). Bangladesh on Monday confirmed the country’s first death from H1N1, Reuters reports (Paul, 8/31).

Colombia President Tests Positive For H1N1

Colombian health officials on Sunday confirmed President Alvaro Uribe tested positive for H1N1 and is undergoing treatment from home, Reuters/New York Times reports. “The news came two days after Mr. Uribe, an important American ally, attended a summit meeting with other regional leaders in Argentina,” the news service writes (8/30). Uribe is “the second Latin American leader to fall victim to the virus following Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez,” Xinhua/CRIENGLISH.com reports (8/31).

Global Preparations For H1N1

McClatchy Newspapers/Seattle Times examines the Chinese government’s efforts to help stop the spread of H1N1. As the article notes, “some 2,000 Americans have been detained by the Chinese on suspicions that they were infected or exposed to swine flu.” The article includes information on the lessons the Asian government officials learned from SARS in 2002 (Klepper, 8/30).

Reuters examines how health officials across Europe are “bracing for a third of their populations to become infected” with H1N1 this fall. The article includes information about the various hygiene and vaccination plans in place in European countries (Kelland, 8/28).

In a separate story, the AP reports on different plans among schools’ response to swine flu worldwide. Though “[b]oth the U.S. and the United Kingdom say they will not close schools except under exceptional circumstances … In France, however, officials may close schools if as few as three students have flu symptoms,” the news service writes. ” Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s flu chief, “said the U.N. health agency did not have any blanket recommendations on closing schools. He said countries could consider closing schools in the fall, but noted that children aren’t the only ones to spread swine flu” (Cheng, 8/31).

In related news, Canadian bioethicists have appealed for the Canadian government to donate supplies to developing countries to help stop the spread of H1N1, Canwest News Service/Gazette reports (Greenaway, 8/30).   

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.