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H1N1 Could Infect Up To 2B People Within Next Two Years, WHO Says

The WHO on Friday said the “H1N1 swine-flu virus could infect up to two billion people over the next two years – about one of every three people in the world,” VOA News reports. According to the news service, “A separate WHO report Friday said the virus has spread to almost every country in the world, killing about 800 people since it emerged in April” (7/25).

Though the H1N1 “virus has been notable for affecting older children and young adults, groups normally not hard-hit by influenza,” the WHO announced H1N1 “appeared … to be affecting older age groups spared earlier in the pandemic,” Reuters reports. The WHO also “said vaccination against H1N1 might start in weeks, even though clinical trials to test the safety, efficacy and needed dosage of H1N1 vaccines have barely started” (MacInnis/Nebehay, 7/24). Despite growing pressure to produce a viable H1N1 vaccine, WHO Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda assured the public Friday that vaccine safety would not be compromised, the AP/Google.com writes (7/24). The news service has also posted an interview with Fukuda (Jordans, AP/Google.com, 7/25).

CDC Predicts Numbers Of U.S. Infections, Deaths Without Vaccine, Proper Control Measures

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans could die over the next two years if the vaccine and other control measures for the new H1N1 influenza are not effective, and, at the pandemic’s peak, as much as 40 percent of the workforce could be affected, according to new estimates” from the CDC based on a 1957 pandemic which claimed the lives of 70,000, the Los Angeles Times reports. The estimates are “admittedly a worst-case scenario that the federal agency says it doesn’t expect to occur,” the newspaper writes (Maugh, 7/25).

“The estimates … are roughly twice the number of those who catch flu in a normal season, the AP/Forbes reports. “Because so many more people are expected to catch the new flu,” if vaccine efforts or other measures fail, “the number of deaths over two years could range from 90,000 to several hundred thousand, the CDC calculated” (Stobbe, 7/24).

Ban Calls For H1N1 Vaccines For Developing Countries

Xinhua examines the continued appeals from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that wealthy nations help developing countries access the H1N1 vaccine (7/25).

According to Reuters, the “WHO is trying to ensure that health workers in poor countries can be vaccinated so hospitals can stay open if the flu becomes more debilitating as it spreads” (Reuters, 7/24).

Presidents of Argentina, Brazil Appeal For Lifting of Patent Rights To Aid In H1N1 Vaccine Production

Dow Jones Newswires/CNN Money: During a South American trade summit meeting “[t]he presidents of Argentina and Brazil Friday suggested that developing countries be allowed to lift patent rights so they can produce” more H1N1 vaccines (Turner, 7/24). “Using patent rights to preserve an economic advantage in this case ‘would condemn millions of people to death,’ Kirchner argued,” AFP/Google.com writes (7/25).

Participants from the summit included representatives from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, the AFP/Google.com reports. “Governments represented at the Mercosur summit agreed to strengthen the network of laboratories for early detection, as well as to develop vaccines ‘with a new regulatory approach to ensure access for the population,'” in addition to coordination between health ministries and other entities related to vaccine and antiviral production, the news service writes (Queimalinos, 7/25).

EMA To Accelerate H1N1 Approval Process 

The AP/Google.com examines the plan by the European Medicines Agency, to accelerate the approval process for swine flu vaccine – leading some “countries such as Britain, Greece, France and Sweden [to] start using the vaccine after it’s greenlighted — possibly within weeks.” Though “[f]lu vaccines have been used for 40 years, and many experts say extensive testing is unnecessary, since the swine flu vaccine will simply contain a new ingredient: the swine flu virus … European officials won’t know if the new vaccine causes any rare side effects until millions of people get the shots. Still, they say the benefit of saving lives is worth the gamble,” the news service writes. The article includes statements by Fukada about the potential risks of untested vaccines (Cheng, 7/26).

Additional Swine Flu News

Irrawaddy.org examines how H1N1 has led to a growing demand and soaring prices for antivirals in Rangoon, Myanmar (Wine, 7/24).

IOL examines recent discussions in South Africa about how the country can ramp up its vaccine production capabilities (Peters, 7/26).

“Peru’s government has extended midyear school vacations by one week amid a growing outbreak of the H1N1 flu,” Dow Jones Newswires/Wall Street Journal reports (Josephs, 7/24).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.