HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Swine Flu Continues to Spread

Although it no longer tops the news, swine flu has not gone away.  MSNBC reports that it has now spread to Japan and that the US death rate is now in the double digits.  The story provides,


. . . . Swine flu has sickened more than 11,000 people in 41 countries and killed 85, according to the World Health Organization, whose figures often trail those of individual countries. Mexico has reported 75 deaths, the U.S. 10, and one in both Canada and Costa Rica. . . .

In Japan, two high school girls who recently visited New York for a Model United Nations Conference became Tokyo's first confirmed cases. Japan had 280 total confirmed cases as of Thursday afternoon, making it the world's fourth-most infected country, behind Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.

While Japan's Health and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe urged citizens to remain calm, Egypt's health minister warned that Egyptians who perform the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca risk being quarantined upon their return.

"It is my job to warn," Hatem el-Gabali said. "I can also open the quarantine and say no one will return to their homes after arriving from Saudi Arabia."

Egyptian officials already have ordered that the country's roughly 300,000 pigs be killed as a preventive measure and have finished off about a third of the job in a couple of weeks.

Other diseases neglected?
In Geneva, health campaigners and officials from some poorer nations complained this year's World Health Assembly was neglecting diseases killing millions of people all over the world because of swine flu fears.

"Malaria, drug-resistant tuberculosis — they are killing people every day," said Dr. Sam Zaramba, Uganda's chief medical officer. "If all the emphasis that has been put on swine flu had been put on malaria and TB, we would have made a bigger impact on health."

Discussions were postponed on fighting Chagas disease, a scourge in Latin American countries, and the first-ever WHO resolution addressing hepatitis was dropped from the meeting's agenda.

But WHO spokesman Thomas Abraham said the assembly was still taking on a "broad agenda" that went far beyond swine flu to deal with improving basic health care and tackling global killers like TB.

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