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H1N1 Spread Continues Worldwide; First Death In Asia Confirmed

The H1N1 (swine flu) virus has now infected more than 52,000 people, leaving 231 dead, the WHO said Monday, AFP/Washington Post reports. “Swine flu has now been reported in 100 countries and territories, and figures yet to be incorporated into the U.N. health agency’s official figures indicate an even higher toll,” AFP/Washington Post writes, adding, “The WHO said, however, that its figures could not be considered reliable because some countries were no longer keeping total figures while other poor countries did not have the means to reliably detect cases.” Since Friday, the number of cases has grown by more than 7,873 cases and 51 deaths, “highlighting the steady spread of the virus,” the newspaper writes (AFP/Washington Post, 6/23).

The confirmation of H1N1 in a Filipino woman who recently died led a top legislator to order the temporary closure of the House of Representatives building where she worked “to allow safety and preventive measures to be implemented,” Xinhua reports (Xinhua, 6/23). Health authorities said that the death of the 49-year-old woman on June 19 was Asia’s first confirmed death from H1N1 (AFP/Washington Post, 6/23).

The WHO recently presented Botswana’s Ministry of Health with supplies to help prevent the spread of H1N1 in the country, including doses of the antiviral Tamiflu, face masks, and lab equipment, Mmegi reports. “As the pandemic unfolds, we must work even more closely than we have done before and we will keep on updating each other on what steps are being taken,” said permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, Newman Kahiya (Baputaki. Mmegi, 6/23).

Bloomberg examines the devastating impact H1N1 could have on the global economy, as predicted in a World Bank report released Monday. As H1N1 circles the world, it could cause 1.4 million deaths in addition to the 1.5 million people who die annually from the seasonal flu, according to the report. “Developing countries would be hardest hit because higher population densities, relatively weak health care systems and poverty accentuate the economic impacts in some countries,” according to the World Bank report.

“Simulations of the potential economic and human costs of a pandemic based on avian flu that was undertaken for a 2006 report suggested that the costs of a global outbreak could range from 0.7 percent to 4.8 percent of global GDP, depending on the severity of the outbreak, the lender said,” Bloomberg reports (Gale, Bloomberg, 6/23).