Global’s Update – 08/10/10

WHO Pandemic Alert remains at Phase 6 (though, perhaps, not for much longer)

Influenza A (H1N1) cases and deaths reported by The World Health Organization (WHO) are as of July 18, 2010

The official end of the H1N1 pandemic may be coming soon. According to the World Health Organization’s Director General Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s emergency committee will be meeting within the week to review the situation and make a declaration.

The WHO has been watching the virus’ behaviour for a number of fundamental signs that the virus is changing from a pandemic strain to a seasonal one.

“All in all, people feel that the overall picture looks like we are ready to declare post-pandemic globally very soon,” Dr. Chan said in an interview from Hong Kong. By the WHO’s definitions, a post-peak phase would mean that the pandemic still a going concern, but that virus activity has declined significantly and it is expected to continue to do so. A post-pandemic announcement, however, would mean that the virus has ceased to exist as a pandemic mutation and fallen into step with the seasonal influenza ebb and flow or been eradicated. Dr. Chan does not, herself, determine the alert phase recommendations; she makes declarations based on the recommendations of the emergency committee, but her language suggests the WHO is considering bypassing the post-peak phase altogether.

The shift in alert status serves as a trigger for many governmental pandemic plans to move from response to recovery activities. The Toronto Star

Heat Wave and Wildfire Smog Combination Doubles Moscow’s Death Rate

Wildfires cover Moscow in a shroud of smog

Russia, like Canada, is currently slogging through the height of its wildfire season. As of Monday 557 fires were burning across that country. In Moscow, the city is blanketed in smog, and suffering through the worst recorded heat wave in 1000 years. Carbon monoxide levels are double the accepted norm, and temperatures are forecast to climb above 35°C.

As a result, the death rate in the city has doubled. Andrei Seltsovsky, the Head of Moscow’s City Health Department, reports that there are currently 1300 bodies in the city morgue, which has a capacity of 1500.

Authorities are urging residents to stay indoors and hang wet towels across window and door openings too cool airflow and attract airborne particulates. Many people are moving out of their homes and into hotels, shopping malls, and offices: any place where they can find air conditioning. BBC News

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