ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
Maggots as Good as Gel in Leg Ulcer Treatments
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Get in Step With Summer Foot Care
High Birth Weight Doubles Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Vitamin D Plus Calcium Guards Against Fractures
CANCER
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Health Tip: Benefitting From Adult Day Care
Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity
Late-Life Fatherhood May Lower Child's Intelligence
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Night Shift Work Hard on the Heart
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
DIABETES
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
5 Reasons why you could gain weight while dieting
Adults Need To Get Thier Food Facts Straight
The Raw Food Diet
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Improved Fungicides May Be Easier on Environment
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Seasons Arriving 2 Days Earlier, Study Says
EYE CARE, VISION
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
Clues Found to Brain Mechanism Behind Migraines
Kids Think Glasses Make Others Look Smart, Honest
FITNESS
Exercise Guards White Blood Cells Against Aging
Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
Dr Churchill & Ashley Pelton Interview 1 of 4
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
Psychiatric Drugs Might Raise Cardiac Death Risk
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
MEN'S HEALTH
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Love Hormone May Ease Discussion of Painful Topics
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
SENIORS
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
Natural Therapies for Menopause
Caffeine in Pregnancy Associated With Low Birth Weight Risk
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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