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WHO Claims H1N1 Will Cause
More Deaths In Northern Winter


The World Health Organisation (WHO) is claiming that the H1N1 swine flu virus has picked up steam in the northern hemisphere and is expected to cause more serious infections and deaths as cold weather sets in.

Although the infection and transmission rates in Ukraine are exceptionally higher than previous H1N1 viral behaviour around the world, the WHO's assertion is that the virus is not known to have mutated. They are assuming that the current pandemic vaccines are expected to confer "good protection", it said in a statement.

Mexico is reporting more H1N1 cases than early in the pandemic, which began in April, and the United States shows higher levels of flu-like illness than in past years, top WHO flu expert Keiji Fukuda said.

"We anticipate seeing continued or increased activity during the winter period in the northern hemisphere. This also means that we expect to see continued reports of serious cases and deaths," Fukuda told a news conference. "At WHO we remain quite concerned about the pattern that we are seeing."

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said that as of Wednesday, some 500,000 cases of acute respiratory illness and 86 related deaths had been reported in Ukraine.

"Vaccine companies out there are producing as much vaccine as quickly as possible. Much of the vaccine has been allocated to different countries on the basis of contracts," he added, referring to deals between drugmakers and governments.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) are among some 25 companies producing pandemic vaccine.

"We see no evidence at all that there is widespread occurrence of antiviral resistance," he said.

Antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir, marketed by Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding as Tamiflu, are considered the frontline drug against the H1N1 virus.

H1N1 has caused a small number of infections in swine herds, turkeys in Chile and Canada and a few domestic pets in the United States, but these isolated events pose no special risks to human health, WHO said in the statement..


Reference Sources 89
November 6, 2009

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