Swine flu is continuing to spread around the globe. New Zealand is now reporting 523 cases throughout the country, and the infection is spreading south and east. Farther afield, the US is reporting estimates of over 1 million infections.
There is also worry over the increasing threat of swine flu absenteeism to economies globally as increased numbers of workers may take time off, with numbers potentially becoming very high during the height of the pandemic – the New Zealand Ministry of Health is warning that absenteeism could rise as high as 50% over a two-week period at its peak.
Vaccines are being produced, although it is possible that a vaccine produced by CSL laboratories in Melbourne may only be available by next winter, as promising vaccines still need human trials. However, a US company has produced a first batch of 100,000 vaccine doses, using a different method, and are continuing to manufacture it. Should it prove safe, it would be required to provide 50 million doses within 6 months of the start of the pandemic, potentially providing a faster-than-expected response to the H1N1 strain.
There is at least one good side to the pandemic: millions of hen eggs are used to grow the cells from which the vaccine can be produced, to the benefit of poultry farmers.