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63rd World Health Assembly convenes

May 17, 2010 - GENEVA

Up to 3000 delegates from 190 nations are expected at the 63rd World Health Assembly, where pandemic influenza H1N1 will be prominent on the agenda. As of Apr 25 this year, more than 214 countries and overseas territories or communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including over 17,919 deaths. A draft global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol is due at the 2010 assembly, at which the 30th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox will be observed. Polio eradication remains elusive.

Up to 3000 delegates from 190 nations are expected at the 63rd World Health Assembly, where pandemic influenza H1N1 2009 will be prominent on the agenda.As of Apr 25 this year,more than 214 countries and overseas territories or communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1, including over 17,919 deaths. A draft global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol is due at the 2010 assembly, at which the 30th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox will be observed. Polio eradication remains elusive. The WHO declared the H1N1 flu a pandemic in Jun 2009. Some clinical trials of potential vaccines are underway, others will start soon. The European Medicines Agency said that large scale clinical trials would be bypassed in order to get vaccines into the general population as soon as possible. At the May 2008 WH Assembly, members called for a report on strategies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. On 8 May 1980, the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication reported to the 33rd assembly that natural transmission of the disease had ceased in 1977 and that all conditions for certification of eradication had been met. The Emory Global Health Institute in the United States and smallpox eradication workers from around the world are planning commemorative events, which include unveiling a monument to the milestone at Geneva WHO headquarters during the 2010 assembly. The smallpox commemoration is likely to raise questions at the gathering about why efforts to eradicate polio, which is highly contagious, have not seen the same success. Two different vaccines were developed 50 years ago — a vaccine for injecting that used a dead polio virus, and then one that used a weakened live virus. Efforts since the 1950s to eradicate polio have achieved remarkable success, according to Columbia University professor Scott Barrett, who writes about polio eradication challenges in the journal Health Affairs, but the disease stubbornly persists in a handful of places. He says eliminating polio from those remaining pockets may not succeed. The challenges include factional fighting, sometimes violent opposition to vaccination and funding problems: some US $2 billion will be needed over the next few years to fund the vaccination effort, according to officials. (UPDATED May 2010)

World Health Organization

World Health Officials Say Two Billion People May Contract Swine Flu (VOA 28 Jul 2009)

Smallpox eradication commemoration 2010

Date written/update: 2010-05-17