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Flu Cases Widespread in U.S., Northern Europe

Flu-like cases are widespread in Ireland, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Cypress, with flu activity in Japan continuing above what is usually seen during flu season, WHO reports.

Influenza-like illnesses (ILI) are widespread in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including in the United States, Ireland, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Cypress. Early transmission of flu virus is increasing in may countries in central and western Asia, and flu activity in Japan continues to be higher than what is usually seen during flu season. The World Health Organization reported these conditions as of Oct. 4 in its latest H1N1 report, which was posted Oct. 9.

The report said as of Oct. 4, more than 375,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 2009 and more than 4,500 deaths around the world have been reported to WHO. Many countries have stopped counting individual cases, especially milder cases, so the case count is "significantly lower than the actual number of cases that have occurred," Geneva, Switzerland-based WHO reported.

A report released Oct. 1 by Trust for America's Health concludes 15 U.S. states could run out of available hospital beds during the peak of the H1N1 outbreak if 35 percent of Americans become sick from the virus, and 12 other states could reach or surpass 75 percent of their bed capacity. The report, titled "H1N1 Challenges Ahead," said 12.9 million people in California alone would be sick with H1N1 if the outbreak reaches 35 percent of the population. Of those 12.9 million, 168,025 would be hospitalized, the report estimates.

"Health departments and communities around the country are racing against the clock as the pandemic unfolds," said Jeff Levi, Ph.D., executive director of TFAH. "The country's much more prepared than we were a few short years ago for a pandemic, but there are some long-term underlying problems which complicate response efforts, like surge capacity and the need to modernize core public health areas like communications and surveillance capabilities."

The report says nearly half of private-sector workers have no paid sick leave benefits, which means millions of Americans could lose their jobs if they are sick or may go to work regardless, contaminating others. It recommends that the U.S. Department of Labor encourage private health benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to waive co-pay requirements for vaccines and out-of-network restrictions and give information to state and local health departments to help with their community vaccination campaigns.

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