|July 25, 2009|
Ho Chi Minh City’s RMIT University announced it would be closed until August 3 Friday, one day after the school shut its doors amid an influenza A (H1N1) outbreak.
Three Vietnamese students and a foreign lecturer at the university, an affiliate of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Australia, tested positive for H1N1 this week.
The four patients are being treated under quarantine at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in the southern economic hub.
The school had initially announced on Thursday it would be temporarily closed until next Monday.
Meanwhile, six more students at Nguyen Khuyen Private High School tested positive for H1N1 Friday, raising the school’s total to eight cases. The two previous cases were detected on Thursday when the school was closed and turned into a temporary clinic for H1N1 quarantine and treatment.
Also on Thursday, more than 2,000 students at the school were allowed to go home for self-quarantine in the wake of the infections. Fifty others were quarantined at the school after examinations found them having flu-like symptoms.
However, the students returning home could be a source of further outbreaks as people having direct contact with the virus could be infected without flu symptoms for several days.
Many of the students had returned home on Thursday by both private and public means of transport.
Nguyen Van Chau, director of Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health, said a quarantine of too many students at the school could facilitate further infections in such a small crowded area. Health authorities have contacted local authorities to monitor the health of students who have returned home, the official added.
However, many Nguyen Khuyen students’ parents told Thanh Nien Friday that no one had come to check on their children’s heath yet.
Meanwhile, many parents crowed the high school Friday demanding to take their children home. The requests were rejected by health authorities on duty.
Nguyen Khuyen was the second boarding high school in the city to be hit with a H1N1 outbreak. Last Sunday, the Ngo Thoi Nhiem Private High School in District 9 was isolated after several students were diagnosed with the disease there.
Health authorities on Friday reported six more confirmed cases at Ngo Thoi Nhiem, raising the school’s total to 78, including five teachers.
The Ministry of Health Friday confirmed 33 new H1N1 cases, including 28 cases in the south, three from the north and two from the central, raising the country’s tally to 532 cases.
Of the total, 357 people had been discharged from the hospital after full recovery while 175 other cases were being treated at hospitals without any serious complication, the ministry reported.
Nguyen Huy Nga, head of the Bureau of Preventive Health under the Ministry of Health, on Friday said the fatality rate among H1N1 cases in the world had between 0.3-0.5 percent, while there had not been any fatal cases in Vietnam as of yet.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday H1N1 virus has spread to almost every country in the world since it was discovered at the end of March, AFP reported.
"The spread of this virus continues, if you see 160 out of 193 WHO member states now have cases, so we are nearing almost 100 percent but not quite yet," said Gregory Hartl, spokesman for the WHO.
Hartl added that H1N1 virus, which the WHO declared a pandemic in June, had resulted in around 800 deaths.
However, he said it was not possible to give a death rate for the virus given that "we don't have the exact numerator or denominator."
The WHO stopped issuing infection figures late last week. It said, however, that it was continuing to watch for the virus's appearance in new territories.’
Meanwhile, Hartl said there remained many unknowns about the virus.
"We don't know how the virus will change going forward," he said.
Another unknown is how the virus would behave in the northern hemisphere's winter, given that it had been monitored only during springtime in the north, he said.
ATLANTA – U.S. health officials say swine flu could strike up to 40 percent of Americans over the next two years and as many as several hundred thousand could die if a vaccine campaign and other measures aren't successful.
Those estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mean about twice the number of people who usually get sick in a normal flu season would be struck by swine flu. Officials said those projections would drop if a new vaccine is ready and widely available, as U.S. officials expect.
The U.S. may have as many as 160 million doses of swine flu vaccine available sometime in October, and U.S. tests of the new vaccine are to start shortly, federal officials said this week.
The infection estimates are based on a flu pandemic from 1957, which killed nearly 70,000 in the United States but was not as severe as the infamous Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19. But influenza is notoriously hard to predict. The number of deaths and illnesses would drop if the pandemic peters out or if efforts to slow its spread are successful, said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner.
A CDC official said the agency came up with the estimate last month, but it was first disclosed in an interview with The Associated Press.
"Hopefully, mitigation efforts will have a big impact on future cases," Skinner said.
In a normal flu season, about 36,000 people die from flu and its complications, according to American Medical Association estimates. Because so many more people are expected to catch the new flu, the number of deaths over two years could range from 90,000 to several hundred thousand, the CDC calculated. Again, that is if a new vaccine and other efforts fail.
The World Health Organization says as many as 2 billion people could become infected over the next two years — nearly one-third of the world population. The estimates look at potential impacts over a two-year period because past flu pandemics have occurred in waves over more than one year.
WHO officials believe the world is in the early phase of the new pandemic.
First identified in April, swine flu has likely infected more than 1 million Americans, the CDC believes, with many of those suffering mild cases never reported. There have been 302 deaths and nearly 44,000 reported cases, according to numbers released Friday morning.
Because the swine flu virus is new, most people haven't developed an immunity against it. So far, most of those who have died from it in the United States have had other health problems, such as asthma.
The virus has caused an unusual number of serious illnesses in teens and young adults; seasonal flu usually is toughest on the elderly and very young children.
New swine flu illness have erupted through the summer, which is also unusual, though cases were less widespread this month. Officials fear an explosion of cases in the fall, when children return to school and the weather turns cold, making the virus easier to spread.