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H1N1 Flu Alert to Rise to Highest Level Today

Posted November. 03, 2009 08:27,   


The national alert level for influenza A (H1N1) will rise to its highest level today, with the government to announce follow-up measures.

The alert levels consist of four stages: concern (blue), warning (yellow), caution (orange) and serious (red). On July 21, health authorities heightened the flu alert to its second-highest level amid fears over the spread of the disease.

The daily average number of confirmed cases more than doubled to 8,857 over the past week (Oct. 25-31) from 4,220 in the previous week (Oct. 18-24). The number is expected to sharply rise over the next three to four weeks with the sudden drop in temperature this week. Against this backdrop, the government decided to raise the alert level to its highest point.

The center for countermeasures against influenza at the Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry said, “The number of outpatients with influenza-like illness for every 1,000 people at 817 sample medical institutions nationwide between Oct. 18 and 24 was 20.29, up 119.6 percent from the previous week (Oct. 11-17).”

This surpassed the highest level recorded in January this year (17.5 patients). In particular, 223 of 267 cases (83.5 percent) where an influenza virus was identified were confirmed to be H1N1, meaning more than 80 percent of flu patients had the new strain of the virus. Around 1,134 schools also had more than two H1N1 patients.

When the alert is raised to its highest level, a center for influenza control presided by the public administration and security minister will be formed, and each ministry will come up with measures to mobilize human resources and prevent the spread of virus.

Other measures will restrict travel and events attracting large crowds, expand the supply of inspection equipment to shorten the screening period for the virus, and prevent Tamiflu abuse.

Many experts are divided over how to control flu outbreak at schools, and the Education, Science and Technology Ministry issued administration guidelines just a week ago. So health authorities are likely to maintain their policy to temporarily close down schools.