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US, Other Nations Stop Counting Pandemic Flu Cases

US, Other Nations Stop Counting Pandemic Flu Cases

Associated Press/AP Online

October 09, 2009

These problems are not unique to the United States. The World Health Organization also stopped counting cases in July, after deciding that tracking individual swine flu cases was too overwhelming for countries where the virus was spreading widely. The WHO has continued to update swine flu reports, but with the disclaimer that since countries are no longer required to test and report cases, WHO’s numbers underestimate.

Britain also releases weekly swine flu updates, but the numbers are estimates based on how many people go to their doctors with flu-like illness, as well as calls logged to the national flu service.

Despite resource limitations and data imperfections, experts say the U.S. system is good enough to alert the experts when major changes occur in the pandemic.

“There will always be an error factor, misdiagnosis, misclassifications,” said Pestronk, formerly the head of a county health department in Michigan. “We’ll never be at 100 percent of people getting tested. The question is what’s good enough for purposes of planning and acting on the burden of disease.”

AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng contributed to this report from London.

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