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Swine flu cases pass thousand

Tues May 5th, 2009

The total number of cases of confirmed swine flu passed 1,000 yesterday, involving some 21 countries.

Mexico, the USA and Canada continue to account for the bulk of cases, according to the World Health Organisation.

In Spain there have been 54 cases and in the UK 27.

WHO said it continued to advise there was no need to restrict international travel.

In the UK, an outbreak was afflicting a London school where five cases were reported and the school was set to be closed for at least a week. The children were thought to have been infected by fellow-student who had returned from North America.

The Health Protection Agency said another 331 people were awaiting the results of tests for suspected swine flu.

Meanwhile American researchers revealed how deadly the flu virus can be - describing it as "paralysing" the immune systems of some victims.

Loss of the immune system would make patients vulnerable to other infections and pneumonia.

Researcher Dr Kathleen Sullivan, of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said: "We have a very limited understanding of why some people who get influenza simply have a bad cold and other people become very sick and even die. The results of this study give us a much better sense of the mechanisms underlying bacterial infections arising on top of the viral infection."

The findings are reported in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

Its deputy editor Dr John Wherry said: "Despite major medical advances since the devastating flu outbreak of 1918 and 1919, influenza virus infection remains a very serious threat and the current swine flu outbreak is a grim reminder of this fact.

"The work by Dr. Sullivan and colleagues brings us a step closer to understanding exactly what goes wrong in some people who get the flu, so, ultimately, physicians can develop more effective treatment strategies."

Journal of Leukocyte Biology doi:10.1189/jlb.1108710

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Tags: Flu & Viruses | World Health | North America | Travel | UK News | Europe

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