Experts worry that it could mutate and become more dangerous as it travels from country to country
THURSDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- In what would seem to be some encouraging news in the ongoing H1N1 swine flu outbreak, a leading federal health official said Thursday that samples of the virus from points around the globe are genetically identical to the strain found in the United States.
"We have tested isolates from a wide geographic area, from the Americas, Europe, from Asia and New Zealand and we are not seeing variations in isolates from the genetic testing we do here," Dr. Anne Schuchat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's interim deputy director for science and public health program, said during a press conference.
While infections caused by the virus continue to be relatively mild and patients recover quickly, health officials have warned that the virus could mutate into a more virulent form, putting greater numbers of people at risk.
The World Health Organization said Tuesday that it was weighing whether to declare a global pandemic, with more cases of the H1N1 swine flu surfacing in the Southern Hemisphere -- where flu season is just beginning -- and outside North America.
The vast majority of infections and deaths have occurred in Mexico -- the source of the outbreak -- and the United States. But person-to-person transmission in now being reported in countries such as Australia (501 cases) and Chile (313 cases), as well as Great Britain, Spain and Japan, according to published reports.
"We still are waiting for evidence of really widespread community activity in these countries, and so it's fair to say that they are in transition and are not quite there yet, which is why we are not in phase 6 yet," WHO flu chief Dr. Keiji Fukuda said during a press conference at the agency's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Phase 6 is the highest alert on WHO's scale, rep
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