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Epidemic control "warfare" heated up to cope with A/H1N1
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16:55, May 06, 2009

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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, May 5, raised its tally of confirmed human cases of influenza A/H1N1 to 1,124, with 26 confirmed deaths worldwide.

New Zealand Health Minister Tony Ryall reported 11 cases of Influenza A/H1N1 on Tuesday. In the meantime, the Republic of Korea (ROK) confirmed a second case of H1N1 flu, a nun who had been in contact with the first patient, ROK health officials said, and the first patient has recovered.

Meanwhile, an African Union (AU) Conference of Health Ministers has been called to discuss the continent-wide response measures. The WHO Africa regional office has created a crisis management team to monitor the spread of influenza A/H1N1 virus, and it is now working to cooperate with some African nations to guard against the spread of H1N1 flu in Africa.

In another development, China has sent a chartered flight after an agreement inked with Mexico, the epicenter of the A/H1N1 flu outbreak, to Mexico to bring back its stranded nationals.

The aircraft Boeing 777-200 is expected to return to Shanghai, east China, on Wednesday, or May 6 with 99 Chinese nationals, who had left Mexico City early Tuesday by a charted flight sent by the Chinese government.

The plane took off from Mexico City with 79 Chinese citizens, heading towards Tijuana, northern Mexico, to lift 20 more Chinese before returning home. At present, 107 Chinese nationals reportedly strand in Mexico and they are all willing to return home, and 32 of them are stranded on Mexican border in the city of Tihuane.

The UN General Assembly on Monday, or May 4, opened a special meeting on Influenza A/H1N1, at which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that efforts should be enhanced to bring into play the role of multilateral cooperation and special emphases be laid on helping developing countries.

In an exclusive interview with media reporters, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said that the WHO Strategic Health Operation Center has kicked into high gear, staffed round-the-clock by experts fighting a new flu virus spreading in Mexico and the United States. At the same time, she urged vaccine manufacturers to provide developing countries with anti-viral drugs.

According to Nancy Cox, PhD, director of the Influenza Division under the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who is widely respected for her rich knowledge and in-depth understanding of influenza viruses, CDC officials said the new A/H1N1 flu strain is spreading rapidly enough that it could cause a global pandemic soon, but "there are signs it could be a mild one".

Meanwhile, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters Monday that "there is also hope that, as humans are often exposed to forms of H1N1 through seasonal flu, our immune system may have something of a head start in fighting infection." And the use of anti-viral drugs would make it less likely that infected people will pass virus onto others, she noted.

In some cases in Japan, nevertheless, patients were rejected by general hospitals after being instructed to go there by fever clinics. So the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on Tuesday, or May 5, planned to conduct a nationwide survey on such rejections, health officials said.

FAO and the World Animal Health Organization have prompted nations worldwide to step up bio-security measures with regard to pig farms. FAO chief veterinary officer, Joseph Domenech, acknowledged that the new strain is circulating among swine and then trace linkage to human populations. Scientists have traced the genetic lineage of the new H1N1 Swine flu to a strain that emerged in 1998 in U.S. factory farms, where it spread and mutated at an alarming rate, he said, adding that current sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred as a result of 10 to 12 years of mutations.

In order to ease or alleviate risks for human infection by an animal influenza virus, both FAO and the World Animal Health Organization urge all nations on earth to beef up monitoring for animal health.

By People's Daily Online and contributed by PD reporters Wang Xinping, Guan Kejiang, Yu Qing and Zhang Huizhong


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