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Monday, November 28, 2011

New flu virus has WHO gearing up to respond in the United States - 28th Nov 2011

Flu experts are gearing up their response planning, after an odd new flu virus has been detected, a senior official of the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

The virus is currently jumping from pigs to people in parts of the United States, and experts are "figuring out what needs to be done if the virus continues to spread and a global response is required", Dr Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for Health Security and Environment, was quoted as saying by The Toronto Star.

The virus is influenza A of the H3N2 subtype, a distant cousin of H3N2 viruses that circulate in humans.

Since the virus was first spotted in July, 10 cases have been confirmed in Maine, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Iowa.

All the victims were children under 10, with an exception - a 58-year-old adult.

Flu expert Malik Peiris, chairman of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, said exposure to contemporary H3N2 viruses might provide some protection against these swine viruses.

"It is important to see the serological data to see how much vulnerability or susceptibility there is in the human population," he was quoted by the paper.

The WHO's desire to be ready without causing alarm comes after its failure to communicate uncertainties about the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009.

Critics said the WHO had created panic about the swine flu virus, which turned out to be moderate in its effect, and caused governments to stockpile vaccines that went unused. Source