Saturday, April 25, 2009

WHO warns of swine flu pandemic

The World Health Organisation has described outbreaks of swine flu in Mexico and the US as a “Public Health Emergency” [WHO]. The virus has so far killed 69 people in Mexico and more than 1,200 have been infected. The virus believed to be a strain of H1N1 has also spread to California and Texas. Latest reports suggest 7 people in California have been infected and an unspecified number in Texas. A variant of H1N1 was responsible for the Spanish flu pandemic that killed some 50 million to 100 million people worldwide from 1918 to 1919.

In a press conference on Saturday authorities in the US say that up to 200 pupils had been absent from school following their recent return from Mexico. Some had reported slight flu-like symptoms and early signs suggest that eight of nine specimens tested show possible swine fever. More comprehensive tests by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta are expected on Sunday.

None of the 200 children had required hospital treatment and many had fully recovered, Dr Thomas Frieden told reporters, but the school could remain closed out of "an abundance of caution".

In the UK the Health Protection Agency has said it is monitoring the situation carefully [BBC]. Travellers to affected areas are advised to consult doctor immediately if they show signs of flu-like symptoms, the HPA has said. There are suggestions that the virus has the ability of passing from person to person which significantly raises the threat of a global pandemic. However, no-one outside Mexico has yet died or been seriously ill.

And there were worrying signs tonight after it was reported that an air steward returning from Mexico had developed flu-like symptoms. The unnamed man had been travelling on flight BA 242 which landed at Heathrow and was taken to Northwick Park hospital in Harrow, north London. A spokesman for the hospital said the man had been placed in isolation and was responding well to treatment. Spokesman Jonathan Street refused to say what treatment the man was being offered though it is known that patients with human swine influenza H1N1 respond well to antiviral drugs such as oseltamavir (Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (Relenza®).

[BBC / Sky News / CNN / wikipedia]

No comments: