May 7 (Bloomberg) — A 58-year-old Polish woman was hospitalized with swine flu after returning home from a trip to New York, bringing the number of influenza cases worldwide to 1,893 in 24 countries.
In two weeks, swine flu jumped from isolated reports in the U.S. and Mexico to a widening circle of infections in Central America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and New Zealand and prompted quarantines to limit the outbreak. Hong Kong, which confirmed its first case of swine flu on May 1, and China are today releasing some people who were isolated after they were found to be on the same flight as the patient.
The World Health Organization, on the brink of declaring a pandemic, said a panel will meet May 14 to decide whether vaccine makers should begin producing hundreds of millions of doses of a separate swine flu shot. The virus, with symptoms similar to seasonal flu, is a new strain that’s dashing across a world population with little natural immunity, the WHO said.
“We are very early in the epidemic,” Marie-Paule Kieny, director of WHO’s initiative on vaccine research, said yesterday at a news conference in Geneva. “We have recommended for all manufacturers to put everything into place to be able to start manufacturing the vaccines.”
The Polish woman, that country’s first confirmed swine flu case, is recovering and the passengers on her May 2 flight from New York to Warsaw are being monitored for symptoms, Pawel Wierdak, a spokesman for the Polish mission to the United Nations in New York, said yesterday in an interview.