The global spread of swine flu will endanger more lives as it
speeds up in coming months and governments must boost preparations
for a swift response, the World Health Organisation said.
There will soon be a period in which most countries may see swine flu cases double every
three to four days for several months until peak transmission is
reached, said WHO's Western Pacific director, Shin Young-soo.
"At a certain point, there will seem to be an explosion in case
numbers," Shin told a symposium of health officials and experts in
Developing countries face greatest threat
International attention has focused on how the pandemic is
progressing in southern hemisphere countries such as SA,
which are experiencing winter and their flu season.
But it is in developing countries where the accelerated spread
of swine flu poses the greatest threat as it places underequipped
and underfunded health systems under severe strain, Shin said.
Governments must act quickly to educate the public, prepare
their health systems to care for severe cases and protect those
deemed more vulnerable to prevent unnecessary deaths, he said.
"We only have a short time period to reach the state of
preparedness deemed necessary," Shin said. "Communities must be
aware before a pandemic strikes as to what they can do to reduce
the spread of the virus, and how to obtain early treatment of
Pregnant women face a higher risk of complications, and the
virus also has more severe effects on people with underlying
medical conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease,
diabetes, autoimmune disorders and diabetes, WHO chief Margaret
Chan said in a video address.
Race to find vaccine
WHO earlier estimated that as many as 2 billion people could
become infected over the next two years - nearly one-third of the
Health officials and drug makers, meanwhile, are looking into
ways to speed up production of a vaccine before the northern
hemisphere enters its flu season in coming months. Estimates for
when a vaccine will be available range from September to December.
WHO has stressed that most cases are mild and require no
treatment, but the fear is that a rash of new infections could
overwhelm hospitals and health authorities, especially in poorer
The last pandemic - the Hong Kong flu of 1968 - killed about 1
million people. Ordinary flu kills about 250 000 to 500 000 people
Swine flu is also continuing to spread during summer in the
northern hemisphere. Normally, flu viruses disappear with warm
weather, but swine flu is proving to be resilient. – (Sapa, August 2009)
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