WHO Stops Giving Global Swine Flu Tally

(AFP) – July 17, 2009

GENEVA — The World Health Organisation said Friday that the swine flu pandemic is moving around the globe at an "unprecedented" speed as it stopped giving figures on numbers affected.

The WHO said in a information note on its website Friday that it would focus on regular updates from newly affected countries, in order to keep track of the global progress of the new influenza A(H1N1) pandemic.

The influenza pandemic had "spread internationally with unprecedented speed," according to the global health watchdog.
"In past pandemics, influenza viruses have needed more than six months to spread as widely as the new H1N1 virus has spread in less than six weeks," the WHO said.

The agency said the counting of individual cases was no longer essential to assess the risk from swine flu but would focus on new countries to be hit by A(H1N1).

"WHO will continue to request that these countries report the first confirmed cases and, as far as feasible, provide weekly aggregated case numbers and descriptive epidemiology of the early cases," it added.

While it eased its overall reporting requirement, the WHO called on all countries to "closely monitor unusual events," such as possible clusters of severe or fatal infections, or unusual patterns that might be associated with worsening disease.

The policy shift was partly motivated by the "mildness of symptoms in the overwhelming majority of patients, who usually recover, even without medical treatment, within a week of the onset of symptoms."

"Moreover, the counting of individual cases is now no longer essential in such countries for monitoring either the level or nature of the risk posed by the pandemic virus" or to guide the best response, the UN health agency added.

In some countries, the investigation and laboratory testing of all cases had absorbed huge resources, leaving health systems with little capacity to monitor severe cases or exceptional events that might mark an increase in the virulence of swine flu.

"For all of these reasons, WHO will no longer issue the global tables showing the numbers.