Tuesday, October 20, 2009

H1N1 has not mutated into deadlier form

Transmission electron micrograph of influenza ...Image via Wikipedia

HONG KONG - The head of the World Health Organization said yesterday the Influenza A (H1N1) virus had apparently not yet mutated into a more serious disease and that the development of vaccines was proceeding on track.

The vaccines for H1N1 produced so far have been very effective, WHO director-general Margaret Chan said at the opening ceremony for the organisation's annual Western Pacific meeting in Hong Kong.

"The virus can mutate any time. But from April to now, we can see from the data given to us by laboratories worldwide that the virus is still very similar (to the previous state)," Dr Chan told reporters.

Dr Chan said the biggest challenge in combating the pandemic would be ensuring enough vaccine got to the world's poorest countries.

Ideally, 3 billion doses could be produced worldwide annually, she told the meeting, noting that China had already begun to vaccinate people.

"Results of early clinical trials suggest that a single dose of pandemic vaccine will be sufficient. If confirmed, this finding will literally double the amount of vaccine available," she said. "Here's the big question: Will this result in more equitable distribution of vaccines? Let me assure you: I am pursuing this opportunity from several angles."

Dr Chan warned that the death of pregnant women in the developing world during a pandemic would be "especially tragic" because the number could be much higher than elsewhere.

Her comments came after the WHO's warning last week that the annual production of H1N1 vaccines is expected to fall well short of the 4.9 billion doses that it had earlier forecast. AFP

From TODAY, World – Tuesday, 22-Sep-2009