ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Holistic Treatment for Candida Infection
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
Extra Pounds in Mid-Life Affect Later Mobility
Study Shows Exercise Shields Against Osteoporosis
CANCER
Family History Key Player in Brain Cancer Risk
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Moms Who Breast-Feed Less Likely to Neglect Child
Organ Donation Policies Vary Among Children's Hospitals
Caregivers Face Multiple Strains Tending Older Parents
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
COSMETIC
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Holistic Dentistry-My View
DIABETES
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
Laughter May Lower Heart Attack Risk in Diabetics
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Oregano Shown to be the Most Powerful Culinary Herb
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
Iced Teas Pose High Risk of Kidney Stones
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
1976 Italian Dioxin Release Damaged Babies' Thyroids
Improved Fungicides May Be Easier on Environment
EYE CARE, VISION
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
Eye Problems, Hearing Loss May Be Linked
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Super Bowl Loss Can 'Kill' Some Fans
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Hand-Washing Habits Still Need Improvement: Survey Says
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Olde Time Medicine Therapy May Prevent Alcoholic Relapse
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Health Tip: Back Pain in Children
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Dangerous Toys Still on Store Shelves, Report Finds
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
MENTAL HEALTH
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Musicians' Brains Tuned to Emotions in Sound
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
SENIORS
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
For a Healthier Retirement, Work a Little
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
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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