ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
Naprapathy: A Hands-On Approach to Pain Management
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Almost Half of Adults Will Develop Knee Osteoarthritis by 85
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
CANCER
Vitamin C Shows Promise as Cancer Treatment
Adding Garlic Might Cut Cancer Risk
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
CAREGIVING
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
Study Casts Doubt on Influential Hospital Safety Survey
Baby's Sleep Position May Not Affect Severity of Head Flattening
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
DIABETES
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Pesticides and How to Affordably Eat Organic or Reduce Pesticide Consumption
The High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) Debate
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Vest Monitors 'Individual' Air Pollution
Heavy Traffic Can Be Heartbreaking
Disinfectants Can Boost Bacteria's Resistance to Treatment
EYE CARE, VISION
Kids' Eye Injuries From Golf Clubs Rare But Severe
Hybrid Cars Pose Risk to Blind, Visually Impaired
Eye Test Could Spot Diabetes Vision Trouble Early
FITNESS
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Be Healthy, Spend Less
Moderate Aerobic Exercise Lowers Diabetics' Liver Fat
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
When Clocks Change, Body May Need Time to Adjust
Autumn Chores Often Hazardous
Stressed and Exhausted: An Introduction to Adrenal Fatigue
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
Psychiatric Drugs Might Raise Cardiac Death Risk
Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Life Span
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Scorpion Anti-Venom Speeds Children's Recovery
Dangerous Toys Still on Store Shelves, Report Finds
3 Home Habits Help Youngsters Stay Slim
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
SENIORS
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
Add your Article

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