Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 now the dominant flu strain in Singapore, Taiwan (China)
Guam's Department of Public Health and Social Services reported the death of a 26-year old woman with pre-existing medical conditions who had also tested positive to Pandemic (H1N1) 2009. Guam has reported 16 cases of the virus. Tonga also reported a death linked to the virus this week. These fatalities lifted to 55 the number of virus-related deaths in the Western Pacific Region.
Health authorities in Taiwan (China) said Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 comprised approximately 88% of flu strains currently circulating in the community. They urged medical specialists to include the virus in their considerations when diagnosing a patient, regardless of whether the patient had a history of travel.
Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 makes up 53% of reported flu cases in Singapore, health officials said, reinforcing the need for continued vigilance. Local media reports quoted Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan as saying that more Singaporeans would be infected in coming weeks, and hospitals would remain alert to minimize the risks of severe illness, especially among high-risk groups.
Meanwhile, the policy of conducting temperature checks at schools in Singapore would be revised in August, according to local media reports. In New Zealand, a senior health official said students with flu-like symptoms should stay home from school until they are well.
"This is an opportunity for students and teachers to remind themselves that personal hygiene is really important in reducing the chances of getting pandemic influenza, or passing it onto others", said Dr Fran McGrath, New Zealand's Deputy Director of Public Health.
Three additional deaths linked to the virus were reported in Australia, bringing the number of such fatalities in that country to 37. In the state of Queensland, media reports quoted a senior health official as saying an estimated 3% of Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 cases in that state were pregnant women.
Dr Jeannette Young, Queensland's Chief Health Officer, told local media that pregnant women, people with chronic diseases and indigenous people should avoid mass gatherings. "Anyone who falls into the vulnerable groups should avoid any mass gatherings", Dr Young was quoted as saying.
People who may be at high-risk of serious disease from the virus include those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, sufferers from cardiac disease, diabetes, or chronic metabolic, renal, neurological or blood conditions, and anyone with an immunosuppressive condition such as cancer or HIV/AIDS. Pregnant women, the morbidly obese, and smokers, may also be at higher risk.
Several countries in the Western Pacific Region have shifted to a mitigation phase in response to Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, and are no longer testing all suspected cases nor reporting new confirmed cases daily. As a result, the actual number of infections in the Region is likely to be significantly higher than official WHO figures.