Pace of swine flu slows; pandemic level still expected
Although the pace of new H1N1 infections seemed to slow Saturday, with a total of 180 cases in the United States and 705 worldwide, a World Health Organization official said he thinks that the agency's infectious disease alert level ultimately wi...
Although the pace of new H1N1 infections seemed to slow Saturday, with a total of 180 cases in the United States and 705 worldwide, a World Health Organization official said he thinks that the agency's infectious disease alert level ultimately will be raised to its highest point.
"I would still propose that a pandemic is imminent because we are seeing the disease spread," Michael Ryan, the agency's director of global alert and response, said in a Geneva news conference.
"At this point, we have to expect that Phase 6 will be reached," he said.
The level will be raised when the agency sees evidence of sustained person-to-person transmission of the virus outside North America. So far, he emphasized, that has not occurred, with the exception of a handful of cases.
Ryan said the WHO would send developing countries 2 million courses of the antiviral agent Tamiflu from its emergency stockpile. The drug's manufacturer, Roche, said that it would send an additional
3 million doses and that it was scaling up production of the drug.
In Mexico, Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said the outbreak in his country might not be as serious as originally suspected. Out of more than 1,000 suspect cases so far, he said, only 443 cases were confirmed to be H1N1.
Emergency rooms at Mexican hospitals have reported fewer patients in recent days. Cordova said he was not declaring the scare over. "It would still be imprudent to say that we're past the worst of it, but I do think ... we are in a stage of stabilization," he added.
"Is it stabilizing or not? I think it is too early to say," said Dr. Steve Waterman of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaking to reporters at Mexico City's nerve center, where officials are fighting the outbreak. "But I think we are getting systems in place where we are going to be able to get a handle on this soon."
In other key developments on swine flu outbreaks:
U.S. Education Department said Friday that more than 430 schools had closed, affecting about 245,000 children in 18 states. The Associated Press contributed to this report.