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The WHO says swine flu pandemic is milder than expected, may be nearing peak

The outbreak of pandemic H1N1 influenza appears to be waning in the United States and Canada and may be nearing a peak in the rest of the world, but it is impossible to predict what will happen with influenza viruses, the World Health Organization said today. "It's too early to say whether activity is peaking in the northern hemisphere and at this point it is also not possible to predict what we are going to be seeing in the springtime," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, special advisor on pandemic influenza to the WHO's director-general, said at a telephone news conference in Geneva. "We continue to see that most activity is in the Northern Hemisphere with lower levels in the Southern Hemisphere... What you see in one country is not necessarily what you are seeing in another country."

Fukuda acknowledged that the virus has proved less lethal than authorities originally feared. "It is possible there could be unexpected events which occur as we go through" the pandemic, he said. But "it is quite possible to have a pandemic on the milder side and if we are experiencing that, and if the number of serious cases is kept down ... this is something for which we should all be thankful."

Fukuda said that more than 150 million doses of swine flu vaccine have now been distributed in about 40 countries. The United States, with at least 70 million doses, represents nearly half that total.

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