Swine flu could sweep Europe

Health officials in Europe have warned that the swine flu outbreak in the United Kingdom, which has risen as high as 124 cases per 100,000 people and has caused the deaths of 50 people, could potentially spread to the rest of Europe.

The flu season started early in the U.K. this year and has led to a vaccine shortage, causing authorities to use leftover shots from last year's flu pandemic. Elective surgeries have been canceled to accommodate additional flu patients, according to the Washington Post.

"What starts in the West of Europe tends to move East," Angus Nicoll, director of influenza coordination at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said, according to the Washington Post. "It's very likely this same pattern (in Britain) will progress to the rest of Europe though we simply do not know if the impact on hospitals will be as  high."

Countries that have high vaccination rates, like Sweden, Finland and Norway, are more likely to avoid a severe flu season than countries like Germany and France, which have lower vaccination rates.

The amount of cases has dropped in the U.K. to 99 cases per 100,000 people as of last week, with 800 people in intensive care with the flu. Though the flu has had high numbers, it has not yet reached epidemic levels.

According to the World Health Organization, the swine flu virus going through Britain is similar to the pandemic strain of 2009. There is no evidence pointing to it being more transmissible or lethal than that strain.