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Swine Flu Found in More Countries

New Confirmed Cases of Swine Flu in New Zealand and the U.K.
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 28, 2009 -- Swine flu has been confirmed in New Zealand and the U.K., and may also be present in Israel -- all in patients who had recently visited Mexico.

Health officials in New Zealand have confirmed three cases of swine flu and are testing a sample from a fourth patient.

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Those patients are among the 10 students at New Zealand's Rangitoto College who developed flu symptoms after a recent trip to Mexico. All 10 patients are recovering at home and taking the antiviral drug Tamiflu, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

The U.K. has two confirmed cases of swine flu. The Guardian, a British newspaper, reports that those patients are newlyweds who spent their honeymoon in Cancun, Mexico, and were recovering in a Scottish hospital. 

And according to media reports, health officials in Israel have confirmed two cases of swine flu in people who recently visited Mexico. The Israeli cases aren't among the cases in the World Health Organization's official tally.

At a news conference today in Geneva, Keiji Fukuda, MD, assistant director-general for health security and environment, said that the WHO has gotten reports of 79 lab-confirmed cases of swine influenza. Here is how those cases break down, according to the WHO:

  • 40 cases in the U.S. (in five states)
  • 26 cases, including seven deaths, in Mexico (in four states)
  • 6 cases in Canada (in two provinces)
  • 2 cases in Spain
  • 2 cases in the U.K.
  • 3 cases from New Zealand

Fukuda confirms that the U.K. and New Zealand patients were people who picked up the swine flu virus while traveling, not in their home countries.

Fukuda acknowledges that other numbers of cases may appear in media reports. But he says the WHO is focusing on laboratory-confirmed cases reported to the WHO by countries -- not reports of people who are sick but who haven't had lab tests to confirm swine flu, and not reports from states, cities, or provinces within a country.

The WHO still has its pandemic alert at phase 4, having raised it from phase 3 yesterday. Phase 4 is a "significant step" toward a pandemic, but it's not a pandemic. 

Today, Fukuda noted that in pandemics the disease itself can sometimes be mild, but that it's far too early to know if that would be the case with swine flu, should it become a pandemic; Fakuda also points out that flu viruses can change, becoming more or less dangerous.

And if you've seen some mention of "Mexican" influenza, or other names for the flu virus in question, Fukuda says that the WHO has no plans call the virus anything other than swine influenza. "It is a swine influenza virus," Fukuda says.

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