WHO reports 1,658 confirmed cases of swine flu (Intro Roundup)

May 7th, 2009 - 12:08 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, May 6 (DPA) The World Health Organization (WHO) Wednesday confirmed 1,658 cases of the new influenza A(H1N1) virus in 23
countries.

Mexico reported 946 laboratory-confirmed cases, including 29 deaths, Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the health agency, said.

The United States had 403 confirmed infections, including one death, and Canada reported 165 cases.

Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s director of the vaccine research department, said that most likely by next week a technical committee

would recommend steps to be taken regarding the production and purchasing of vaccines.

Already, the WHO was working on the seed for the virus, the first stage in making a vaccine, which was expected to be made available to

pharmaceutical manufacturers by the end of this month.

On May 19, Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director general, was set to meet vaccine manufacturers in Geneva. On the table would also be

the issue of ensuring access to the drug for poor countries.

“Manufacturers have been very forthcoming,” Kieny said.

Producing a vaccine would take between four and six months, depending on the capacities at different companies.

Currently, companies have the annual capacity to make at least 700 million seasonal flu vaccine doses, which Kieny estimated could go

over 1 billion for a new vaccine.

The technical committee would also be responsible for recommending whether to stop producing season flu shots- completely or partially -

and move to doses for the new virus.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said that in the continent there were 125 confirmed cases of which over

half - or 73 - were reported from Spain. Britain had 28 confirmed cases and six probable cases, while Germany had nine confirmed cases.

In all, 12 countries in Europe reported confirmed or probable cases. France had eight probable cases, half the number of cases confirmed so far.

Cases were also reported from eight other countries outside Europe, including five in New Zealand, four in Israel and two each in South Korea and Guatemala.

The WHO has said there was no evidence so far of sustained human-to-human transmission at the community level outside of North America. The agency, however, said it would maintain its influenza pandemic alert at phase 5, one below the highest.

WHO officials have cautioned authorities to be on alert for possible spikes in the number of cases and called on individuals to practise good hygiene.

While the disease was so far showing its mild side for the most part, that could change, WHO officials have warned.

People would build up some immunity over time, as with most flu virus.

The organization has maintained its stance that there was no need to restrict travel or consumption of pork products.

Mexico has complained to the World Trade Organization that import bans slapped on its pig products were not justified. The US has also

said it was calling on its trading partners to repeal any such measures which were not backed by scientific evidence.

Over a dozen countries, including China and Russia, have imposed restrictions on meat products from North America since the outbreak

of the new virus was verified.

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