Growing Rate of Swine Flu Infection Will Tax Health Resources

In a warning to a conference of Southeast Asian health ministers, World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan said that "decades of failure to invest adequately in basic health systems and infrastructure," will be exposed by the tragic evidence to be left in the wake of the first flu pandemic in forty years.

In the same Agence-France Press report, the UN agency is cited in saying that "Some tropical countries were already reporting "moderate strains" on their healthcare systems amid surges in infections."

And last month, the 'swine flu' (AH1N1 or H1N1) strain, was already the world's most prevalent strain picked up in surveys by WHO.

A rapid rate of the spread of infection is often a hallmark of pandemics. Chan provided a rough projection for what we may see at peak transmission, possibly by the year's end,

"The number of cases could double every three or four days."

But the spread of AH1N1 strain is already ramping up as a recent report out of Mexico's Health Ministry makes clear.

A separate measure of the infection rate is reflected in the number of victims that have fallen to swine flu.

After the total number of deaths in Mexico surpassed 200, last week, global mortality stood at 2,837 deaths since the pandemic toll was started in April.

More than 20 percent of the 2,837 known deaths ... occurred in the past week.

WHO Director Chan told the Asian health ministers to expect the pandemic in each of their countries and for it to last for months.

In closing, I want to emphasize the importance of her warning to ministers that "this is not the same as seasonal influenza."

Because it is a strain of influenza, infection with this virus will produce symptoms that start out to seem like 'the seasonal flu'. But it is a very different strain whose potential danger to public health, especially that of children and young adults, should not be underestimated.

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