Latest news on swine flu - 39 countries now affected

The latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO) # 31, says as of 17th May that 39 countries have now officially reported a total of 8,480 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection.

As the numbers infected with the new H1N1 flu strain (swine flu) continue to climb, the WHO says the death toll has remained at 72 but new cases confirmed have been reported in India, Malaysia and Turkey - the vast majority of cases have been in Mexico - 2,895 confirmed cases including 66 deaths - and the United States - 4,714 confirmed cases including four deaths.

Canada has 496 confirmed cases and Costa Rica nine cases, both with one death.

According to the WHO the following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths - Argentina (1), Australia (1), Austria (1), Belgium (4), Brazil (8), China (5), Colombia (11), Cuba (3), Denmark (1), Ecuador (1), El Salvador (4), Finland (2), France (14), Germany (14), Guatemala (3), India (1), Ireland (1), Israel (7), Italy (9), Japan (7), Malaysia (2), Netherlands (3), New Zealand (9), Norway (2), Panama (54), Peru (1), Poland (1), Portugal (1), Republic of Korea (3), Spain (103), Sweden (3), Switzerland (1), Thailand (2), Turkey (1), and the United Kingdom (82).

Although the WHO is not recommending travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the influenza A(H1N1) virus, the spread of the disease has led the WHO to declare that a pandemic is imminent - at present the pandemic alert remains at level 5 on a 6 level scale.

The virus is currently behaving much like a seasonal influenza strain, which kills 500,000 annually, by spreading rapidly and causing mainly mild disease, but severe illness in some people, but as with other flu viruses a second wave is expected which could present in a more virulent form.

The WHO says the rising numbers can be to some extent attributed to a backlog of cases being processed, and not just to the spread of the disease.

Japanese health officials say the number of cases of H1N1 flu virus there have now reached 17 and China says the country's first case has been confirmed in the capital, Beijing.

The WHO is recommending that people who are ill should delay travel plans and returning travellers who fall ill should seek appropriate medical care. The WHO says these recommendations are prudent measures which can limit the spread of many communicable diseases, including influenza.

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