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WHO Maintains That 2B Worldwide Could Get H1N1

The WHO on Tuesday maintained that roughly two billion people could become infected with the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, Reuters reports. “By the end of a pandemic, anywhere between 15-45 percent of a population will have been infected by the new pandemic virus,” WHO spokeswoman Aphaluck Bhatiasevi said, adding that 30 percent, or 2 billion people worldwide, is the mid point of that estimate. “But the estimate comes with a big health warning: no one knows how many people so far have caught the new strain … and the final number will never be known as many cases are so mild they may go unnoticed,” the news service writes (Lynn, 8/4).

Also on Tuesday, the WHO reported that the H1N1 virus has claimed the lives of 1,154 worldwide since the virus emerged in April, including “338 deaths reported in the week leading up to last Friday,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “More than 300 of the new deaths were in the Americas, bringing the death toll in that region to 1,008 since the virus first emerged in Mexico and the United States, and developed into the global epidemic,” the news service writes (8/4).

Agence France-Presse examines a growing number of H1N1 cases in Mexico and deaths from the virus in Latin America. “Three new deaths each, not yet confirmed by the WHO, were registered on Tuesday in Costa Rica, Peru and in San Salvador, two more in Saudi Arabia and others in Bolivia and Spain,” the news service writes, adding, “While no new deaths were reported in Mexico, the health ministry said almost 1,000 fresh cases had been confirmed in just five days, taking the total soaring above 17,000.” The Netherlands and Vietnam on Tuesday became the latest countries to report the first deaths from the H1N1 flu (8/4). Arab Times provides a breakdown of reported H1N1 cases around the world (8/4).

Vaccine Makers Move Ahead To Meet Demand

The drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on Tuesday announced the company had signed nine additional government contracts for 96 million doses of its H1N1 vaccine, the Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal reports (8/4). This agreement is in “addition to the 195 million vaccine doses and products previously ordered by countries including Britain and the U.S., for a total of 291 million doses,” the AP/Washington Post reports. GSK said in a statement that the company expects the first batches of H1N1 vaccines will be available in September, the news service reports (8/4). “But while Glaxo is confident the first vaccine will be ready from next month, it said it was unsure how quickly it can be produced to fulfil[l] orders,” the Press Association writes (8/4).

Adimmune Corp, “[a] Taiwanese biotech company on Tuesday started mass production of a swine flu vaccine before even completing clinical trials, in a bid to get a jump before the start of the winter flu season,” the AFP reports. According to Deputy CEO and President of the company Ignatius Wei, the company expects to be able to produce five million doses of the vaccine before the end of October (8/4).

The drug maker Novartis on Wednesday said the company has shipped doses of the seasonal flu vaccine to the U.S. “ahead of schedule as the current swine flu pandemic is likely to trigger a rise in demand,” Reuters reports (Reid, 8/5).