ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
Garlic Yields Up Its Health Secret
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Weight Loss Might Not Curb Knee Arthritis
Study Examines How Rheumatoid Arthritis Destroys Bone
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
CANCER
Multiple Screening Strategy Boosts Cervical Cancer Detection
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
More Cancer Tests Mean More False-Positive Results
CAREGIVING
When the Caregiver Becomes the Patient
For Dialysis Patients, More Pills = Lower Quality of Life
Caregiving May Lengthen Life
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Secondhand Smoke Quickly Affects Blood Vessels
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
DIABETES
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
Lifestyle Factors Tied to Older Adults' Diabetes Risk
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
DIET, NUTRITION
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
Eating More Soy May Be Good For Your Lung Function
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
Radiation Exposure Linked to Aggressive Thyroid Cancers
Air Pollution May Cause Appendicitis: Study Reveals
Agent Orange Exposure Tied to Prostate Cancer Return
EYE CARE, VISION
Retinal Gene Is Linked to Childhood Blindness
It's a Whole New Outlook for Cataract Patients
Kids Who Spend More Time Outdoors Have Better Vision
FITNESS
Will the Wii Keep You Fit?
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
GENERAL HEALTH
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
MEN'S HEALTH
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
SENIORS
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
Seniors Who Volunteer May Live Longer
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Broccoli May Help Battle Breast Cancer
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