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Has Swine Flu Peaked?

Swine Flu Infections Dip in North America, but That's Not the Case Across the Globe, Flu Experts Say
By Peter Russell
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Rob Hicks, MD

Feb. 24, 2010 -- Although swine flu infections are decreasing in North America and Western Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it’s too early to say the current H1N1 pandemic has peaked.

That’s because the pandemic picture looks different across the globe, flu experts say.

"There has been some ongoing activity in other parts of the world, such as Eastern Europe [and] parts of Central Asia,” Keiji Fukuda, MD, WHO’s special adviser on pandemic influenza, said at a news conference Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland. And, new outbreaks of swine flu were appearing in parts of western Africa, he said.

An emergency committee, made up of 15 flu experts, also pondered the effects of swine flu in the southern hemisphere during its approaching winter. "We have some reason to be concerned about what might happen as half of the world goes into its winter months," Fukuda said.

The flu experts noted that some countries had seen two waves of infection.

Fukuda said the committee had decided "it was too early to conclude that the pandemic was in a post-peak period in many countries."

The WHO's emergency committee is to reconvene in upcoming weeks to reassess the situation.

Swine Flu's Scope

The WHO confirmed that the number of deaths directly attributable worldwide to H1N1 pandemic flu stood at 16,226. However, Fukuda said that "this pandemic appears to be on the less severe side of the spectrum of pandemics that we have seen in the 20th century."

An estimated 300 million people have been vaccinated against swine flu, and "the safety record of the vaccine has been excellent," Fukuda said.

The WHO flu experts say the vaccine is 70% to 75% effective in protecting against the infection.

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