ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Acupuncture May Not Help Hot Flashes
Holistic Treatment for Candida Infection
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Fruits and Veggies May Strengthen Bones
Gene Therapy May Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis
Chronic Low Back Pain Is on the Rise
CANCER
Family History Key Player in Brain Cancer Risk
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
Method for Treating Cervical Lesions May Pose Pregnancy Risks
CAREGIVING
Bariatric Surgery Centers Don't Deliver Better Outcomes
Omega-3 Fatty Acid May Help 'Preemie' Girls' Brains
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
DIET, NUTRITION
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
Meat Additives May Be Dangerous for Kidney Patients
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Is It Safe to Go in the Gulf Coast's Water?
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Seasons Arriving 2 Days Earlier, Study Says
EYE CARE, VISION
Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Protect Against Eye Disease
Eye Disease, Cognitive Decline Linked in Study
When Corks Fly, Watch the Eyes
FITNESS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Moderate Aerobic Exercise Lowers Diabetics' Liver Fat
Vigorous Exercise Can Cut Breast Cancer Risk
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
GENERAL HEALTH
Vitamin D and Bone Health: Are You Getting Enough of This Important Vitamin?
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Simple Holistic Approach to Fight the Common Cold
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Music May Temper Pain in Preemies
Time to Remind Teens About Sun Protection
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Shop 'Til You Drop: You May Feel Better
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
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
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
SENIORS
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Natural Oils Help Lower Body Fat For Some
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
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Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.

THURSDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the first flu pandemic since 1968, triggered by the rapid spread of the H1N1 virus across North America, Australia, South America, Europe and regions beyond.

WHO director Dr. Margaret Chan made the much-anticipated announcement immediately after an emergency teleconference with flu experts from a number of countries.

"The world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic in the 21st century," Chan said in Geneva, according to the Associated Press. "The [swine flu] virus is now unstoppable."

The declaration pushes the WHO alert status on the outbreak from phase 5, where it had remained for weeks, to the highest level, phase 6, as the number of swine flu cases hit close to 30,000 in the United States, Europe, South America and Australia.

The rapid spread of cases in Australia, where they rose by more than 1,000 on Monday, appeared to fit a key criteria for declaring a global pandemic -- if at least two regions of the world are hit.

On Thursday, WHO said 74 countries have now reported 28,774 cases of swine flu, including 144 deaths, the AP reported.

U.S. health officials on Thursday were not surprised by the pandemic announcement. "It's based on the data," CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during an afternoon press conference.

But, he added, "this does not mean there is any difference in the severity of the flu. There has been no change in the virus."

"Here in the United States, we have been responding as if it were a pandemic already," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, added.

What the pandemic declaration means, she said, is that "for countries that were not seeing the flu we have seen here, they need to dust off their pandemic plans."

In a separate statement in response to the WHO announcement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "What this declaration does do is remind the world that flu viruses like H1N1 need to be taken seriously. Although we have not seen large numbers of severe cases in this country so far, things could possibly be very different in the fall, especially if things change in the Southern Hemisphere, and we need to start preparing now in order to be ready for a possible H1N1 immunization campaign, starting in late September."

And U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano added, "This decision comes as no surprise. We acted aggressively to stay ahead of the virus as it spread across the country. Now our challenge is to prepare for a possible return in the fall."

"The Obama Administration has been working together across the government, and will continue to do so over the weeks and months ahead to keep the American people safe," she said.

According to WHO statistics, the last pandemic -- the Hong Kong flu of 1968 -- killed about 1 million people. By comparison, ordinary flu kills about 250,000 to 500,000 people each year.

Other experts also cautioned that the new declaration does not mean that the swine flu has gotten more severe.

"A World Health Organization level 6, which in effect states that H1N1 infections are now worldwide in distribution, is simply a declaration of the extent of geographic spread, and not a statement of severity of the clinical disease," Dr. Pascal James Imperato, a former New York City health commissioner and dean of public health at the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center, said in a statement. "The disease remains relatively mild in most people. A positive consequence of this declaration is that it empowers countries to move forward with vaccine production."

Chan on Thursday also characterized the H1N1 virus as "moderate," and WHO officials said they would be now urging flu vaccine makers to start producing swine flu vaccine.

Since the outbreak started in April, health officials in the United States have also said that infections have been mild for the most part, and most people recover fairly quickly. Testing has found that the H1N1 virus remains susceptible to two common antiviral drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza.

During the next few months, CDC scientists will be looking to see if the swine flu virus mutates or becomes resistant to antiviral medications or is more easily spread among people.

U.S. health officials have said there's no way to tell now if the H1N1 virus will be more virulent when -- and if -- it returns to the Northern Hemisphere with the approach of winter.

A vaccine for the swine flu virus could be ready by October, if research and testing proceed on pace this summer. Candidate viruses have been shipped to vaccine manufacturers, agency officials said.

SOURCES: June 11, 2009, teleconference with Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Anne Schuchat, M.D., director, CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease; June 11, 2009, statements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Pascal James Imperato, M.D., M.P.H., dean, Graduate Program in Public Health, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, New York City; Associated Press