South American Health Ministers Gather In Argentina To Discuss H1N1 Preparedness

The health ministers of six South American countries gathered in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Wednesday to “coordinate defenses against” the H1N1 (swine flu) virus which has killed nearly 200 people in the region,” the AFP/ reports. Ministers from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay used the meeting to voice concern over the rapid spread of the H1N1 virus in their countries, which are now in the southern hemisphere’s winter months, and discuss ways to share supplies to help prevent the spread of the virus. The article includes the individual strategies being taken by some South American countries (7/15).

Argentina’s health ministry on Tuesday reported that the number of deaths from the swine flu had reached 137, with a total of 3,056 officially confirmed cases. Argentina is now “second only to the U.S. in swine-flu deaths – passing Mexico, which this week reported its toll had risen to 124 dead, with 12,645 confirmed cases,” the Wall Street Journal reports (Whalen, 7/15).

Rwandan Health Officials Attempt To Ease Public Fear Over H1N1 In Country

Rwanda’s Ministry of Health tried to ease the public’s fears over the country’s first confirmed report of H1N1, the New Times/ reports. Officials emphasized that the country has strong preparedness plans and that WHO data that shows the “majority of patients [infected with the H1N1 virus] experience mild symptoms and make a rapid recovery” (Nambi, 7/14).

Pacific Region Populations At High Risk Of H1N1 Complications examines recent reports that populations living in the Pacific region may be at high risk from H1N1 complications due to a high number of people living with underlying medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and asthma (7/16).

WSJ Examines U.K.’s Plans For H1N1 Vaccine Campaign

“The medical establishment in Britain, the nation hardest hit by swine flu outside North America, is scrambling to roll out a large-scale vaccination program in an effort to protect its population against a virus that threatens to spread rapidly here in coming weeks,” the Wall Street Journal reports. United Kingdom officials are debating whether to hire out contractors or have doctors administer free shots of the H1N1 vaccine to the country’s some 60 million residents. The newspaper writes, “Doctors would rather handle the shots themselves … but as phone calls and office visits related to swine flu have jumped, they are concerned the extra work will overwhelm them unless they suspend some other routine care” (7/15).

Guardian Profiles WHO Chief Margaret Chan

In a profile piece on WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, the Guardian writes, “Swine flu is probably already much bigger than anyone knows. Ten days ago, only six countries in Africa had reported cases, but as Chan readily admits, this is rather misleading: until the WHO started sending out lab kits in early May, many developing countries had no means of testing for it. Furthermore, modeling suggests that swine flu has an attack rate of 30 percent — once it enters a country, the likelihood is 30 percent of citizens will catch it at some point.” The piece includes comments from Chan contrasting the preparedness of wealthy nations to that of developing countries, her efforts to ensure developing countries have access to an H1N1 vaccine when one becomes available, and “the myriad other epidemics and crises currently demanding [Chan’s] attention” (Edemariam, 7/16).

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