ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Fish Oil's Benefits Remain Elusive
Ginkgo No Shield Against Alzheimer's
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Varicose, Spider Veins May Be Inevitable for Some
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Most Kids With Type 1 Diabetes Lack Vitamin D
CANCER
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
Tanning Beds Shown To Raise Cancer Risk, Study Says
CAREGIVING
Tainted China Formula Caused High Rate of Kidney Stones in Kids
Caregivers Face Multiple Strains Tending Older Parents
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
DIABETES
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Drug May Not Help Diabetes-Related Eye Damage
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Low-Fat Diet Does Little to Alter Cholesterol Levels
Keep Stress Off the Holiday Meal Menu, Expert Advises
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Dementia Underestimated in Developing Countries
Global Warming Linked to Heightened Kidney Stone Risk
Old-Growth Forests Dying Off in U.S. West
EYE CARE, VISION
Eye Problems, Hearing Loss May Be Linked
Eye Disease, Cognitive Decline Linked in Study
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
FITNESS
Football Can Shrink Players
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
Kids With Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Heart Trouble
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
Good Sleepers More Likely to Eat Right
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Risk Factor for Stroke More Common Among Whites
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
Safety Should Be Priority for Those Involved in Kids' Sports
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
Breast-Fed Baby May Mean Better Behaved Child
17 Ways to Create the Perfect Workday
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
SENIORS
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Healthy Diet Could Cut Alzheimer's Disease Risk
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Caffeine in Pregnancy Associated With Low Birth Weight Risk
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Add your Article

Spread of Swine Flu in Japan Could Raise WHO Alert to Highest Level

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- The World Health Organization may declare a full-fledged swine flu pandemic in the coming days now that the virus has swept through Japan, a former WHO infectious disease adviser said.

Since rapid human-to-human transmission is now occurring in a region outside North America, where a majority of the almost 10,000 cases worldwide have occurred, the international agency may have to raise its pandemic alert to the highest level of 6, which hasn't happened since 1968, Bloomberg News reported Monday night.

"Japan is definitely having human-to-human transmission," Hitoshi Oshitani, who advised the agency during the SARS outbreak several years ago in Asia, said in a telephone interview with the news service. "The WHO will have to take the Japanese cases into consideration when deciding whether to raise the pandemic alert."

But many countries, including Britain, China and Japan, are urging the WHO to consider how deadly a virus might be -- not just the extent of its spread -- before declaring a pandemic, the Associated Press reported. Officials from these countries cited the potential economic impact of a swine flu pandemic declaration, as well as decisions that would need to be made regarding vaccination.

In the United States, while most cases of swine flu continue to be no worse than seasonal flu, the death rate from the new H1N1 virus is slightly higher than that seen with seasonal flu, U.S. health officials said Monday.

"Our best estimate right now is that the fatality [rate] is likely a little bit higher than seasonal influenza, but not necessarily substantially higher," Dr. Anne Schuchat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's interim deputy director for science and public health program, said during an afternoon teleconference.

In addition, unlike seasonal flu, which typically strikes hardest at the very young and the elderly, the new H1N1 swine flu is largely affecting children, teens and young adults, with more hospitalizations of younger people, Schuchat said.

"The hospitalizations that we are tracking have this disproportionate occurrence among younger persons," she said. "That's very unusual to have so many people under 20 requiring hospitalization in some of those intensive-care units."

Schuchat added that the spread of the swine flu is far from over and could continue through the summer. "H1N1 is not going away, despite what you've heard," she said.

The heat and humidity of summer months are less conducive to the spread of influenza virus, Schuchat said. "This is certainly a possibility -- it's not something I can predict. Most years, the seasonal influenza strains have very reduced circulation in the summer months. Unfortunately, we don't know if we are going to get a break this summer with this [H1N1] virus."

On Sunday night, an assistant principal at a New York City public school became the sixth person in the United States to die from the disease that was first identified last month. On Monday, ABC News reported that New York City health officials announced the closure of three more school buildings for Tuesday, bringing the total number of schools closed due to swine flu to 16.

Health officials said Sunday that the assistant principal's death was not surprising, because even a normal flu season kills an estimated 36,000 Americans every year.

The assistant principal, Mitchell Wiener, who worked at an intermediate school in Queens, had a history of medical problems that might have left him vulnerable to complications from swine flu. His family said he had gout, but the condition was being controlled with medication, The New York Times reported.

New York City's health commissioner, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who was just selected Friday by President Barack Obama to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "We are now seeing a rising tide of flu in many parts of New York City." But he added: "Nothing we've seen so far suggests that it [swine flu] is more dangerous to someone who gets it than the flu that comes every year. We should not forget that the flu that comes every year kills about 1,000 New Yorkers," the Times reported.

On Monday, the CDC was reporting 5,123 U.S. cases of swine flu in 48 states, and six deaths. For the most part, the infections continue to be mild and recovery is fairly quick.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday was reporting 9,830 diagnosed cases in 40 countries, including at least 79 deaths, mostly in Mexico, believed to be the source of the outbreak.

Testing has found that the swine flu virus remains susceptible to two common antiviral drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, according to the CDC.

The swine flu is a highly unusual mix of swine, bird and human flu viruses. Experts worry that, if the new flu virus mutates, people would have limited immunity to fight the infection.

The CDC is concerned with what will happen as this new virus moves into the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season is about to start. The agency is also preparing for the virus' likely return in the fall to the Northern Hemisphere.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization opened its annual meeting Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, with swine flu and the possibility of a vaccine dominating the agenda, the AP reported.

The WHO's director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan, was expected to review experts' recommendations on which companies should produce a vaccine, how much they should make and how it could best be distributed, the news service said.

One factor complicating a decision is that most flu vaccine companies can only make limited amounts of both seasonal flu vaccine and pandemic vaccine, such as that needed for swine flu, and not at the same time. The producers also can't make large quantities of both types of vaccine because that would exceed manufacturing capacity, the AP said.

Also Monday, health officials were examining new swine flu cases in Spain, Great Britain and especially Japan, where more than 130 people -- most of them teenagers -- have been infected, prompting the government to close 2,000 schools and cancel public events. Many of the new cases were transmitted in-country, meaning those infected had not traveled overseas recently, the AP said.

More information

For more on swine flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



SOURCES: May 18, 2009, teleconference with Anne Schuchat, M.D., Interim Deputy Director for Science and Public Health Program, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; May 15, 2009, teleconference with Daniel Jernigan, M.D., Influenza Division, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Associated Press; The New York Times; ABC News

Last Updated: May 19, 2009

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