Third Person Dies of Swine Flu in Bay Area

The World Health Organization today declared the H1N1 outbreak a pandemic, the same day that Alameda County health officials announced the  third swine flu-related death in the Bay Area.

While swine flu has dominated headlines in the last few months, seasonal influenza also claims lives. According to CDC statistics,  approximately 36,000 Americans, primarily elderly persons, children and those  with certain medical conditions, die of seasonal flu each year.
A middle-aged Alameda County man who tested positive for H1N1 died Wednesday, Alameda County Public Health Department spokeswoman Sherri Willis said today.

On Tuesday, county health officials announced the death of another middle-aged man who had tested positive for the H1N1 virus. Willis said both men suffered from chronic health issues, with swine flu being one of many  problems they were dealing with.

Alameda County has recorded 49 confirmed cases and 10 probable cases of the virus, Willis said.

Last week, health officials in Contra Costa County announced that a 9-year-old girl in that county who had the H1N1 virus died May 29.

Contra Costa County has 104 confirmed cases of H1N1 and 41  probable cases, county health services spokeswoman Kate Fowlie said.

Because the flu has continued to spread worldwide, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan announced today that the organization would  raise the influenza pandemic alert level from Phase 5 to Phase 6, marking the  first official global flu pandemic since the Hong Kong flu in 1968.

"Countries should prepare to see cases, or the further spread of cases, in the near future. Countries where outbreaks appear to have peaked  should prepare for a second wave of infection," Chan said in a statement.

However, she said, "No previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning. The  world can now reap the benefits of investments, over the last five years, in  pandemic preparedness."

Since the organization's announcement in late April of the  emergence of the virus, 74 countries have reported 28,774 cases of H1N1  infection and 144 deaths, according to WHO statistics.

Despite the virus' new classification, the Bay Area's response to the outbreak will likely stay the same, said Joy Alexiou, spokeswoman for the  Santa Clara County Department of Public Health.

"For us particularly, it doesn't really change much because we've  already been responding to it pretty much like it was a pandemic, in terms of  things like laboratory testing and recommendations to public schools,"  Alexiou said.

As of Wednesday, Santa Clara County had 47 confirmed H1N1 cases and 42 probable cases, Alexiou said. Seven people had been hospitalized by  the illness, but all are either fully recovered or are recovering at home,  she said.

San Francisco had 10 confirmed cases and no probable cases as of Tuesday, San Francisco Department of Public Health spokeswoman Eileen Shields  said.

Marin County had 17 confirmed cases and three probable cases as of Tuesday, health officials there said.

Solano County has one confirmed case and no probable cases. Sonoma County has recorded one probable and five confirmed cases, county health  officer Mary Maddux-Gonzalez said.

No cases have been reported in Napa County, a spokeswoman for the Napa County Public Health Department said.

Totals for San Mateo County were not available.

The California Department of Public Health is scheduled to release updated statewide H1N1 totals this afternoon.

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