Monday, May 18, 2009

World Health Assembly opens in Geneva.Pandemia...

The World Health Organization's annual general meeting began in Geneva on Monday, with measures to deal with the new influenza at the top of the agenda.WHO Director-General Margaret Chan opened the event by asking the international community to come together to tackle the new virus.This year's World Health Assembly has officials from 193 countries in attendance. It will close on Friday, half the usual length of the meeting, to allow member nations to dedicate more time to fight the new flu at home.The assembly will focus on development of vaccinations and assistance to developing nations.During the session, WHO will continue to discuss the issue of whether it should upgrade the alert level to Phase 6, which would mean that the new influenza has reached the status of a worldwide pandemic.Recent reports from Japan on the rapid spread of infections will be closely watched.This year's World Health Assembly is also symbolic in the sense that it has allowed observer status to Taiwan for the very first time.
2009/05/18 19:00(JST)(JST: UTC+9hrs.)
Source:NHK,Tokio, Japan.
Reuter:Flu pandemic may be unfolding: WHO
Mon May 18, 2009 2:07pm EDT

By Laura MacInnis
GENEVA (Reuters) - Humanity may be witnessing an influenza pandemic unfold, the head of the World Health Organization said on Monday, as Japan reported a big jump in infections with the newly-discovered H1N1 virus.
Flu fears dominated the start of the WHO's annual congress in Geneva, where many of the 40 countries touched by the flu strain urged the United Nations agency to rethink its pandemic alert scale that is now at the second-highest notch.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the outbreak that began in North America and has stretched to Europe, Asia and South America needed to be tackled with seriousness even though its symptoms appear to be largely mild.
"For the first time in humanity, we are seeing, or we may be seeing, pandemic influenza evolving in front of our eyes," Chan told the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva, where rich and poor governments discussed their drug, vaccine and other needs.
"We are all under pressure to make urgent and far-reaching decisions in an atmosphere of considerable scientific uncertainty," Chan told the annual congress, which was shortened in length to allow health ministers to go home earlier and resume their monitoring for flu infections.
Several topics including food safety and viral hepatitis were dropped from the agenda while drug-resistant tuberculosis was initially slated to be postponed and then re-added at the last moment with support from China and others.
According to the WHO's latest tally, 74 people have died from H1N1 infection. Most of the other nearly 9,000 patients have suffered mild effects like fever and diarrhea from the bug that is a genetic mix of swine, bird and human viruses.
But its rapid spread between people and across countries has caused the WHO to raise the alert and declare a pandemic is "imminent," a designation that reflects views on the way the new virus is spreading and not the seriousness of its effects.
Mexico, Britain, China, Egypt, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates were among those who called at the opening-day session for the WHO to rethink its criteria for declaring a pandemic, which under current rules would occur when the virus is spreading in a sustained way in two regions of the world.
British Health Secretary Alan Johnson said the "mechanistic process" now in place seems to give the wrong public impression about the seriousness of the flu, which can be treated without drugs in most cases.
Chan, who also fought bird flu and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in her tenure as Hong Kong health director, said she would consider the request that came just as the number of infections in Japan, Britain and Spain approached critical mass.
The WHO said its laboratories have confirmed 125 cases in Japan, 103 in Spain and 101 in Britain.
Officials from its North American stronghold said the virus was still spreading, albeit in a seemingly less virulent form.
Richard Besser, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a high-level session that the H1N1 strain has reached nearly all 50 U.S. states and was likely to circulate worldwide. Continued...
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