It is "premature" to declare that the swine flu epidemic has peaked, a panel of experts convened by the World Health Organization said Tuesday. The panel had been widely expected to say that the outbreak of pandemic H1N1 influenza had passed its peak and was now tailing off. The experts cautioned, however, that the virus had only recently reached Africa and that another wave of illness is expected in the Southern Hemisphere in the next few months as fall and winter approach. The committee recommended that another meeting be held in a month or two to reassess the situation.
In other swine flu news:
-- The Food and Drug Administration's vaccine advisory committee on Monday recommended that swine flu be incorporated as one of the three viruses in next year's seasonal flu vaccine. The move was widely expected because swine flu is the predominant virus now circulating in the United States and most of the world.
-- Many public health authorities had feared an outbreak of swine flu at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, but participants and spectators have remained remarkably free of the virus, according to a report in the Canadian Press. February is normally prime time for influenza, but last week the British Columbia provincial laboratory didn't find the swine flu virus in a single sample submitted for testing, according to the report.
-- At least 63 million Americans have been infected with swine flu, according to new estimates from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. They suggest that the large proportion of the population already infected, combined with the more than 70 million who have been vaccinated, should be sufficient to prevent a third wave of the pandemic. Their findings, reported in the non-peer-reviewed online journal PLoS Currents: Influenza, are based on an analysis of blood samples collected in Pittsburgh. They then extrapolated the data to the entire U.S. population, estimating that 21% had been infected.
-- Thomas H. Maugh II