06/10/2009, 00.00
ASIA
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Swine flu: WHO braced to declare global “pandemic”

The raising of alert levels due to an increase in infections in Australia and the strong spread of the virus among Canada’s Inuit. WHO fears panic and over reaction. So far 26500 infections and 140 deaths, no different to a normal flu.
Geneva (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The World Health Organisation (WHO) is bracing itself to declare the first ever ‘global pandemic’, rising its alert level for seine flu.  The decision appears due to an increase in infection rates in Australia, over 100 cases, and concern for its affects on some Canadian populations particularly the Inuits.

Keiji Fukuda, deputy director general of the WHO reports “the situation has really evolved over the past few days.  We are very close to admitting that we find ourselves in a pandemic situation”.

Fukuda is however concerned by possible over-reactions: hospitals could be overcome by people in a state of panic, in search of help, who are not sick, while others who are infected by the virus are forgotten.  Among exaggerated reactions already taking place is that fact that many people have stopped eating pork, because the virus is called ‘Swine Flu’; pig meat imports have been banned and in Egypt pig farms were ordered to slaughter their stock.

So far A/H1N1 virus has infected 26500 in 73 nations; of these 140 have died, mainly in Mexico (100).  The percentage of deaths from the flu virus is no greater than those of a normal seasonal flu.  What is abnormal is the fact that the majority of those infected are young people. According to some analysts older generations are in a sense immune to the flu because of previous contact with other Asian flu types.

One of the groups to suffer most from the H1N1 virus are Canada’s Inuits, many of whom have had to be hospitalised.  It is still unclear whether the cause is genetic or linked to their poverty.

The WHO decision to raise the alert level to the maximum 6, will force pharmaceutical companies to begin production on a vaccine.  Already many countries such as the US, Canada and Great Britain have began to stockpile vaccines; many developing nations instead find are left without.

 

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