09/16/2009, 00.00
ASIA
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WHO: H1N1, virus "no half measures." Race for vaccines continues

Autopsies show that the seasonal flu virus is different and causes "deep" lung infections. United States and China are planning mass vaccinations.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The H1N1 virus, responsible for swine flu is a virus of "extremes" and does not know "half measures". This according to Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) for whom the disease "in most cases" is no problem, but on "rare occasions" manifests itself as aggressive and requires specifically intensive treatments. Beijing, meanwhile, which has yet to register any official deaths, continues the testing of vaccines, and a third Chinese company has been cleared for marketing.  

"At the clinical level - stressed the WHO director - it is a virus of  extremes. People who are most at risk are pregnant women or those with low immune systems, especially in countries which lack "adequate" facilities and health personnel. Chan confirmed that in the industrialized nations the problems will be "bearable", but in those underdeveloped "it will have devastating consequences."  

In the United States the Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to four of the five companies that produce a vaccine. The mass immunization campaign should start from October.  

The Beijing authorities have authorized an industry based in Shanghai to market the vaccine, it would have fewer side effects than other drugs. Ma Xianghua, a researcher from the Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences, explains that the institute will immediately produce 3 million vaccines, by the end of the year the total number should touch 10 million. So far there have been no reported deaths in China from the new flu, but health authorities remain on high alert. In recent days, Liang Wannian, deputy director of the Department for Emergencies, Ministry of Health, spoke of "millions of people infected" by this autumn, with "severe cases and inevitable deaths".  

In India the total number of victims for the new flu has exceeded 200, more than 6500 people are infected. The virus has spread to 28 states. The Thai Ministry of Health has confirmed 11 new deaths, for a total of 153.  

According to WHO figures, updated on 11 September, the number of infections in South-East Asia has exceeded 22 thousand, with 221 victims. In the Western Pacific zone there are 306 dead and about 70 thousand cases of infection. Worldwide, the death toll stands at "at least" 3205, with 277 thousand infected people.   The autopsy of victims confirms that the new flu virus H1N1 is "different" from seasonal flu. Patients show "deep" lung infections, with "serious damage" to the alveoli. It causes acute breathing problems that, in most cases, lead to the death of the patient.

 

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