Global swine flu pandemic deaths pass 10,000: WHO

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The number of swine flu deaths worldwide passed the 10,000 mark about eight months after the pandemic strain was uncovered in April, reaching 10,582, World Health Organisation data showed Friday.

Early data suggested that the death rate had not worsened as the flu virus took hold in its most propitious territory, the northern hemisphere, in winter, the WHO indicated.

"As of 13 December 2009, worldwide more than 208 countries and overseas territories or communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including at least 10,582 deaths," the WHO said.

In data for December 6 released a week ago, the death toll stood at 9,596.

Transmission of the A(H1N1) virus remains "active and geographically widespread" in the northern hemisphere but disease activity has reached a peak or is waning in many locations there, the UN health agency added.

Preliminary data from the northern hemisphere after a season of winter transmission indicated that the death rate was similar to the one observed in the southern hemisphere's winter earlier in the year.

"This would indicate that the overall severity of the pandemic has not changed," the WHO said.

At least 10 western and northern European countries reported a decline in disease activity but in four - Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Montenegro and Switzerland - respiratory disease continued to increase or only levelled off.

High intensity was still reported in parts of south eastern Europe and Russia.

Swine flu was extending into Western and Central Asia, especially Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, but was reaching a peak in Afghanistan, Oman, and Israel and also in parts of the Middle East.

The WHO said flu transmission was starting to decline in east Asia, including Japan, northern and southern China, Taiwan and Mongolia

But it was on the increase in south Asia - northern India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Only sporadic cases of pandemic flu were reported in the southern hemisphere.

pac/cw

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