Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Swine Flu in Japan May Trigger Pandemic

In U.S., 8 New York City Schools Closed as H1N1 Swine Flu Spreads Across Nation
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 18, 2009 -- H1N1 swine flu appears to be spreading in Japan, pushing the world to the brink of an official flu pandemic.

Japan's cases of H1N1 spiked today with 104 new lab-confirmed cases, raising that nation's swine-flu case count from 25 to 129. Ten schools in the Kobe City area reported 78 of the new cases.

Swine Flu Outbreak: Get the Facts

Swine Flu Slideshow

Learn more about the H1N1 swine flu and see what you can do to stay healthy.

View the slideshow.

If the new cases do indeed represent "community-level sustained transmission" of the virus in Asia, it would be the second region of the world to have wide spread of H1N1 swine flu. That would meet the official WHO criteria for moving from the current level 5 pandemic alert to the ultimate level 6 alert.

Aside from the emotional shock, the formal pandemic declaration won't mean a lot to the U.S., Anne Schuchat, MD, the CDC's interim deputy director for science, said at a news conference.

"We have seen sustained spread of this virus in the U.S. and are acting aggressively, so a change from level 5 to level 6 will have less effect on us than on other regions that have done less to deal with virus," she said.

Declaration of a pandemic does not mean that the virus has become more deadly, only that it is spreading more widely around the globe.

While H1N1 swine flu does appear more dangerous than seasonal flu bugs -- especially for older children, teens, and young adults -- the vast majority of cases have been relatively mild.

"From the virus strains we have tested we see no indication of a change to more virulent strain. But viruses do change and we will continue looking at this," Schuchat said.

Even so, the U.S. has recorded its sixth swine flu fatality, a 55-year-old assistant principal at a school in the New York City borough of Queens. The city has closed eight schools in Queens and Brooklyn; news reports suggest that 40 other New York schools have high absentee rates.

Despite the worrisome news from New York, Schuchat said the swine flu is now spreading most quickly in the Pacific Northwest and in the Southwest. Case counts -- 5,123 as of today -- are "the tip of the iceberg."

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat