World Health Organization Says Swine Flu Deaths Reach 2,837

[Swine Flu] The World Health Organization says at least 625 people have been reported dead from swine flu in the last week.

The swine flu virus has caused at least 2,837 deaths since it emerged in Mexico and the United States earlier this year and developed into a full-blown global epidemic. Most of the deaths are in the Western Hemisphere.

WHO said Friday that laboratory-confirmed cases of the disease have now reached 254,206.

Spokesman Gregory Hartl says the figure far understates the actual number of cases because countries are no longer required to report each infection as the caseload is so high.

He says the number of deaths is growing proportionately to the increase in number of infected people.

[Cell] Meanwhile, scientific advisers to the White House warned the Swine flu may hospitalize as many as 1.8 million patients in the U.S. this year, filling intensive care units to capacity and causing “severe disruptions” during a fall resurgence,

Swine flu, also known as H1N1, may infect as much as half of the population and kill 30,000 to 90,000 people, double the deaths caused by the typical seasonal flu, according to the planning scenario issued yesterday by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. Intensive care units in hospitals, some of which use 80 percent of their space in normal operation, may need every bed for flu cases, the report said.

The virus has sickened more than 1 million people in the U.S., and infections may increase this month as pupils return to school, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. If swine flu patients fill too many beds, hospitals may be forced to put off elective surgeries such as heart bypass or hernia operations, said James Bentley with the American Hospital Association.

[Injection] “If you have 1.8 million hospital admissions across six months, that’s a whole lot different than if you have it across six weeks,” said Bentley, a senior vice-president of the Washington-based association, which represents 5,000 hospitals.

The scenario projections were “developed from models put together for planning purposes only,” said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC, at a briefing in Atlanta today. “At the end of the day, we simply don’t know what this upcoming flu season is going to look like. It could be severe, it could be mild, we just don’t know.”

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