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WHO Raises Doubts on Preparedness for an Epidemic

Global health officials' response to the swine-flu pandemic reflects major improvements in flu-fighting capabilities in recent years, but limited vaccine supplies, crowded emergency rooms, and other challenges show they still aren't fully equipped to combat a deadlier scourge, the World Health Organization's chief said.

While a second wave of infections caused by the H1N1 virus has ebbed in North America and Western Europe, transmission of flu remains intense in Central and Eastern Europe and parts of southern Asia, and health authorities must monitor its spread for another year or more, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in an interview this week.

"It is premature to say the pandemic has peaked world-wide," she said. "The situation needs to be watched and monitored at least another six to 12 months." The virus could still mutate to become more severe, she warned.

Cases of H1N1 flu confirmed by laboratory testing have been reported in more than 208 countries and overseas territories, the WHO said Wednesday, and at least 12,220 people have died. A third wave is possible, Dr. Chan said, noting that the Southern Hemisphere could experience one when its flu season returns in a few months.
 
 

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