H1N1 deaths worldwide top 10,000, WHO says

There have been more than 10,000 swine flu deaths worldwide since April, the World Health Organization said Dec. 18.

"As of Dec. 13, 2009, worldwide more than 208 countries and overseas territories or communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including at least 10,582 deaths," the United Nations health agency said in its weekly pandemic update.

Last week, the WHO said the death toll was 9,596.

H1N1 flu is also adding pressure to Afghanistan's medical system, a spokesman said.

"The current winter season is of great concern to health providers," Peter Graaff, the WHO representative in Afghanistan, told a news briefing in Geneva.

The H1N1 influenza A virus that causes swine flu has spread at the community level in 18 of the country's 34 provinces, he said.

Over the next few weeks, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Mongolia will be the first countries to receive doses of H1N1 vaccine, the WHO said Dec. 17.

In general, influenza activity continues to increase in areas of southeastern and central Europe and in central and south Asia. Disease activity has peaked or passed its peak in many places, particularly North America, according to the update.

Flu activity continues to increase in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. It continues to circulate in the Middle East but may have peaked in some parts.

Flu-like illnesses have remained elevated in northern and southern China, Chinese Taipei and in Mongolia, as well as the northern parts of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.