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Swine flu cases continue to rise

Fergus Walsh | 19:02 UK time, Friday, 5 June 2009

It's understandable that H1N1 swine flu has made fewer appearances on radio and television bulletins in recent weeks.

There was massive coverage when the virus first emerged and when the WHO raised the pandemic threat level to five, one short of six when a pandemic is declared.

But just because swine flu is not getting so much publicity, it does not mean it has gone away. Nor does it mean that the risk of a pandemic - a global epidemic of flu - has abated.

A few figures just released show how cases of swine flu continue to rise.

Health Protection Scotland has confirmed 22 new cases. This includes two doctors at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, who are thought to have caught it from patients being treated there. It brings the Scottish total to 141 including four patients who are in a critical but stable condition.

The Health Protection Agency in England has confirmed 27 new cases, bringing the total to 363. Northern Ireland and Wales have two cases each. It brings the UK total to 508.

In the United States the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also put out new data which it says it will now update only weekly, on Fridays. It has 13,217 confirmed and probable cases and 27 deaths. At present the number of confirmed US cases is rising by about 1,000 per day.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a new global update earlier today. Although it lags behind national statistics, it is still the gold standard for assessing the spread of H1N1 swine flu. It reports 21,940 cases in 69 countries including 125 deaths - 103 of these in Mexico.

Australia has 876 confirmed cases according to the WHO, up from 501 in two days. It now has the highest case-load outside North America. July and August will be the peak season for flu in Australia and there are signs that the virus is taking hold there very quickly.

If widespread community outbreaks are reported in Australia (or the United Kingdom, Chile or Japan in the coming weeks it will be a signal for the WHO to declare a pandemic because the virus will have been shown to be spreading widely in two WHO regions of the world.

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