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Spread of Swine Flu in Japan Could Raise WHO Alert to Highest Level
Date:5/19/2009

, who was just selected Friday by President Barack Obama to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "We are now seeing a rising tide of flu in many parts of New York City." But he added: "Nothing we've seen so far suggests that it [swine flu] is more dangerous to someone who gets it than the flu that comes every year. We should not forget that the flu that comes every year kills about 1,000 New Yorkers," the Times reported.

On Monday, the CDC was reporting 5,123 U.S. cases of swine flu in 48 states, and six deaths. For the most part, the infections continue to be mild and recovery is fairly quick.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday was reporting 9,830 diagnosed cases in 40 countries, including at least 79 deaths, mostly in Mexico, believed to be the source of the outbreak.

Testing has found that the swine flu virus remains susceptible to two common antiviral drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, according to the CDC.

The swine flu is a highly unusual mix of swine, bird and human flu viruses. Experts worry that, if the new flu virus mutates, people would have limited immunity to fight the infection.

The CDC is concerned with what will happen as this new virus moves into the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season is about to start. The agency is also preparing for the virus' likely return in the fall to the Northern Hemisphere.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization opened its annual meeting Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, with swine flu and the possibility of a vaccine dominating the agenda, the AP reported.

The WHO's director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan, was expected to review experts' recommendations on which companies should produce a vaccine, how much they should make and how it could best be distributed, the news service said.

One factor complicating a decision is that most flu vaccine companies can only make limited amounts of both seasonal flu vacci
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