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WHO Declaration of Swine Flu Pandemic Appears Imminent
Date:6/9/2009

ell as Great Britain, Spain and Japan, according to published reports.

But Fukuda also expressed concern Tuesday about reports of unusually large numbers of severe cases among Canada's Inuit population, according to AP.

The vast majority of swine flu cases globally have remained mild, but some of the deaths have occurred in otherwise healthy people, the WHO noted. "Approximately half the people who have died from this H1N1 infection have previously been healthy people," Fukuda said. He called that "one of the observations which has given us the most concern."

Since the outbreak started in April, health officials in the United States have also said that infections have been mild for the most part, and most patients recover fairly quickly. Testing has found that the H1N1 virus remains susceptible to two common antiviral drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza.

During the next few months, CDC scientists will be looking to see if the swine flu virus mutates or becomes resistant to antiviral medications, or is more easily spread among people.

U.S. health officials have said there's no way to tell now if the H1N1 virus will be more virulent when -- and if -- it returns to the Northern Hemisphere with the approach of winter.

A vaccine for the swine flu virus could be ready by October, if research and testing proceed on pace this summer. Candidate viruses have been shipped to vaccine manufacturers, agency officials said.

It's still not clear whether such a vaccine is needed. Any decision to move forward would be based on several factors, including the severity and spread of the virus and whether there's a safe and effective vaccine, the CDC has said.


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