Swine Flu Spreads with 'Unprecedented Speed'The UN health agency says that it is giving up counting individual cases of A(H1N1) swine flu. In a statement on Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it will no longer issue global totals of swine flu cases, but it will still track the global epidemic. The health organization says tracking individual cases is too overwhelming for countries where the virus is spreading widely.
"At this point, further spread of the pandemic, within affected countries and to new countries, is considered inevitable," the agency says in its statement. Countries should look for signs the virus is mutating, such as changes in the way swine flu is spreading, surges in hospital visits or more severe cases, WHO states. Reports should be made of a country's first confirmed case, and then weekly case numbers along with a description of the outbreaks.
"The 2009 influenza pandemic has spread internationally with unprecedented speed. In past pandemics, influenza viruses have needed more than six months to spread as widely as the new H1N1 virus has spread in less than six weeks."
The last report from WHO on July 6 showed the world has almost 95,000 cases of A(H1N1) and 429 deaths. Those numbers are outdated with Britain reporting an estimated 55,000 new cases last week, including the former Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife, Cherie, being treated for the swine flu virus.
Thus far the swine flu remains a relatively mild disease, and most people don't need medical treatment to get better. But medical experts have expressed fear the virus could mutate into a more dangerous form after news of a Tamiflu-resistant strain of the virus being discovered in a flu patient in Asia. Experts have predicted during the flu season, when the virus spreads more easily, more people will probably fall sick and die.
Questions also remain about when a swine flu vaccine will even be available, as WHO stated earlier this week that a fully licensed vaccine might not be ready until the end of the year.