The Obama administration scored its first major foreign policy victory last week when U.S. trade officials announced from Hangzhou, China, that China intends to re-open its markets to U.S. pork and live swine.
Even if nobody gets sick with H1N1 flu at Jim Gibbens’ Hexagon Farms near Cando, N.D., the virus already has taken a serious toll there.
The villain isn’t the virus itself, actually, but the name by which it commonly goes:
It means North Dakota no longer will have to send its swine flu samples to a federal laboratory in Atlanta for confirmation. A state Health Department official says that will cut nearly two weeks off the turnaround time for test results.
Swine flu becomes first pandemic in 41 years The World Health Organization told its member nations it was declaring a swine flu pandemic Thursday — the first global flu epidemic in 41 years — as infections climbed in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere. U.S. officials said today they've taken an early aggressive approach and the WHO announcement won't change how it's been dealing with the issue. The WHO designation is based on geographic spread and not on the nature of the disease, U.S. officials said.
Continued bans on U.S. pork imports by China, Russia and more than a dozen other counties have baffled government and industry officials, leading some to speculate that the issue is more about market share than health concerns.
WHO flu chief Keiji Fukuda said the disease has reached 64 countries and infected 18,965 people, causing 117 deaths. WHO is now debating whether to add a second measure that indicates how dangerous the virus is — rather than just how widespread — after several countries raised concerns that declaring a global pandemic could cause mass confusion and panic even though it is still unclear how dangerous the virus will be.
Marcos Antonio Sanchez went from being an outgoing 21-year-old to Utah's first swine flu fatality in less than a week. Swine flu now has sickened more than 10,000 people in 41 countries and killed 80, according to the World Health Organization, whose figures often lag those of individual countries. Mexico has reported 75 deaths, the U.S. 10, and one in both Canada and Costa Rica.
Making a swine flu vaccine appears to be more difficult than experts first thought, the World Health Organization acknowledged today as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan met with pharmaceutical companies in Geneva.
Health experts are looking very closely at the spread of swine flu among people in Spain, Britain and Japan, a WHO official said Sunday, as Japan confirmed dozens of new cases among teenagers and shut down affected schools.
Eliane Engeler and Mari Yamaguchi
May 17, 2009
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