Swine flu: Virus could 'mutate' in southern hemisphere
The World Health Organization has warned there will be more deaths from swine flu as the H1N1 virus is expected to mutate during the southern hemisphere's winter season. WHO chief, Margaret Chan, warned on Friday that the virus was "very contagious" and predicted more serious infections."We need to watch the behaviour of H1N1 very carefully as it encounters other influenza viruses circulating during the winter season in the southern hemisphere," Chan said at the 62nd World Health Assembly in the Swiss city of Geneva."The current winter season gives influenza viruses an opportunity to intermingle and possibly exchange their genetic material in unpredictable ways.
Chan described H1N1 as " a very contagious virus" and the WHO's "most pressing concern".While WHO officials, clinicians and epidemiologists were watching conditions "conducive to the start of a pandemic", she said they did not currently have the scientific knowledge to interpret these signals confidently.Chan said countries needed to adjust their responses in line with changing patterns of the "subtle, sneaky virus" which spreads stealthily, requiring extensive laboratory testing to detect and track."We do not at present expect there to be a sudden and dramatic jump in severe illnesses and deaths,"she said.At the end of April, WHO raised its alert for swine flu to the second highest level and urged all countries to intensify their preparations for a global pandemic.