WHO Changes Policy on H1N1 Reporting
To conserve overtaxed resources—particularly laboratory resources—the World Health Organization will no longer provide its usual tabulated updates for the number of swine flu (H1N1) cases worldwide. Instead monitoring will focus on seminal cases in newly affected countries, clusters of fatal or otherwise severe cases, and evidence of unusual transmission. Details of the policy change were provided in a briefing note posted yesterday at the WHO web site.
WHO reports that the "overwhelming majority" of H1N1 cases have been mild, with spontaneous recovery, despite the fact that the virus has spread with "unprecedented speed." Confirming these cases with laboratory testing, however, is "extremely resource-intensive," WHO writes. "In some countries, this strategy is absorbing most national laboratory and response capacity, leaving little capacity for the monitoring and investigation of severe cases and other exceptional events."
For countries well ensconced in the H1N1 pandemic, surveillance procedures will now mirror those used to assess seasonal influenza activity. Countries with "well-established laboratory-based surveillance systems" will monitor any changes in the H1N1 virus.
According to WHO's most recent (and last) global update, on July 6, a total of 94,512 H1N1 cases had occurred throughout 135 countries or territories. The overall mortality rate remains steady, at 0.45% (429 deaths).