H1N1 Spreading Eastward, WHO Says

The H1N1 (swine flu) virus appears to be spreading eastward across Europe and Asia, after appearing to have leveled off in the U.S. and some western European countries, the WHO said Friday, Reuters reports. “Typically seasonal influenza always starts west and moves eastwards,” said Anthony Mounts, of the WHO. “It seems to be following that pattern except it is coming very early this year.” In central and South America, the number of flu cases continues to decline, with the exception of Peru and Colombia, WHO said, according to Reuters (Nebehay, 11/20).

The number of new H1N1 cases in the U.S. appears to have slowed, U.S. health officials said Friday, Agence France-Presse reports. “We are beginning to see some decline in influenza activity around the country, but there is still a lot of influenza everywhere,” said Anne Schuchat, of the CDC (11/20).

“The number of states reporting widespread activity of the H1N1 virus dropped to 43 from 46 in the past week, and activity fell in all 10 regions of the country, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the Washington Post reports in a second story (Stein, 11/21).

“It is so early in the year to have this much disease,” Schuchat said at a news conference, the Wall Street Journal reports. “We don’t know if these declines will persist, what the slope will be, whether we’ll have a long decline or it will start to go up again” (McKay, 11/23). The New York Times reports on additional signs the H1N1 virus has peaked in the U.S., including declines in the number of H1N1 diagnostic tests since October and totals of college students infected with the virus (McNeil, 11/20).

AsiaNews.it reports on the rising number of H1N1 cases in Sri Lanka, leading to the closure of all schools in the Central Province of the country on November 23 (11/20).

Washington Post Looks At H1N1 In Eastern Europe

The Washington Post examines how countries in Eastern Europe are responding to the uptick in the number of H1N1 cases. “As the pandemic H1N1 influenza surges with the onset of winter, the nations of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union appear particularly vulnerable to the deadly virus. Burdened with weak health-care systems, relatively inexperienced news media outlets and shaky governments that have little public trust, the region also seems ripe for panic and political strife over the flu,” the newspaper writes. “The potential for trouble is already on display in Ukraine, where 1.5 million of its 46 million people have had diagnoses of flu and respiratory illnesses since the start of the outbreak and 356 have died, according to the government” – the WHO suspects many of theses cases were caused by the H1N1 virus.

The article examines how politics have weighed into the government’s response to the H1N1 outbreak and details “one of the weakest health-care systems in Europe” (Pan, 11/21).

Health Authorities Examine Reports Of Mutated H1N1

Samples of the H1N1 virus obtained by two patients who had died from the disease in Norway contained a mutated form of the virus, the WHO said Friday, Agence France-Presse reports. Health authorities also detected the mutated form of the virus in a third Norwegian patient with severe symptoms of the flu. “However, [the WHO] stressed that the mutation did not appear to cause a more contagious or more dangerous form of A(H1N1) influenza and that some similar cases observed elsewhere had been mild,” the news service writes (11/21).

Additionally, “[f]ive patients at a hospital in Wales contracted swine flu that resisted treatment with Roche Holding AG’s Tamiflu, and three more infections are being analyzed, the U.K. Health Protection Agency said [Friday],” Bloomberg reports. The article adds details about the patients and comments from health experts on virus mutations (Cortez/Stigset, 11/20).

Also on Friday, U.S. health experts reported they were investigating what appeared to be Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 among four patients at Duke University, USA Today reports. “Doctors say investigations of the … hospital outbreaks are underway, but the preliminary genetic evidence suggests that the virus spread among patients at the hospitals,” according to the newspaper. “If Tamiflu-resistant virus spreads widely, swine flu will become tougher to treat and may cost more lives, says Duke’s Daniel Sexton, who is leading the hospital’s investigation,” the newspaper writes (Sternberg, 11/20).

Saudi Health Officials Announce First Deaths From H1N1 During Hajj

“Saudi health officials announced the first deaths from swine flu of this year’s annual pilgrimage to Mecca, as four pilgrims succumbed to the disease soon after arriving in Saudi Arabia, the Associated Press reports (11/22). “An Indian man, a Moroccan woman and a Sudanese man — all aged 75 — died from A(H1N1), as had a 17-year-old girl from Nigeria, Saudi health ministry spokesman Khaled al-Marghlani said,” Agence France-Presse reports. All patients are reported to have had preexisting conditions (11/21).

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