August 9, 2009

Health officials brace for H1N1 2nd wave

The United States and other Northern Hemisphere countries are racing to get ready for a second wave of H1N1 flu virus that could be weeks away, officials said.

The pandemic that has spread in the Southern Hemisphere, which is currently in mid-winter, has struck especially harshly in the poorest parts of the world, international health officials told The Washington Post.

A second wave of the first influenza pandemic in 41 years could reach the Northern Hemisphere within weeks, U.S. and international health officials told the newspaper. There is a possibility it could disrupt schools, workplaces and hospitals but its course is unpredictable, the officials said.

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine influenza expert William Schaffner told the Post the H1N1 virus, commonly known as the swine flu virus, is still around and ready to explode.

We're potentially looking at a very big mess, he said.

There is also a possibility of a typical U.S. flu season this winter, with around 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths, the newspaper said. However, many specialists think the second H1N1 wave could be more severe because the virus is new and relatively few people are immune to it.