According to the CDC there are now 896 laboratory confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus in the United States. There have been two fatalities, both in Texas.
The contagion continues to spread across the planet. But to date there has been no community-wide outbreak outside North America. The World Health Organization anticipates this will yet occur. “If the situation continues to evolve and the virus does become established in other countries, and we do move into a pandemic, we would expect the virus to infect many people,” said WHO senior official Keiji Fukuda at a press conference today. “Perhaps a third of the world’s population could be infected with this virus, based on previous pandemic.” (See more from ABC News)
In most cases the virus is presenting mild symptoms similar to seasonal flu. But the WHO is concerned regarding the potential impact of any pandemic on densely populated urban areas in Africa and Asia.
“Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of China’s Center for Disease Control, said China has to be prepared for the ‘worst scenario’ as it faces direr challenges of a possible flu epidemic, given its high population density, an enormous migrating population and uneven disease control capacities in different regions. ‘The results could be more disastrous in China than in other parts of the world. That’s why China is on the alert against the A/H1N1 flu,” he told Xinhua on Wednesday.
The WHO’s concerns are reinforced by the pandemic readiness and response demonstrated by China and Japan, two of the most capable Asian nations. Peter J. Brown, a frequent contributor to HLSwatch, comments in today’s Asia Times Online, “When swine flu (H1N1) came knocking on Asia’s door, China’s and Japan’s crisis management skills were duly tested. The way in which the two nations communicate in emergency situations in particular deserves a closer look – neither gets a passing grade.”