msnbc.com news services
updated 8/4/2009 2:15:42 PM ET 2009-08-04T18:15:42

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that 1,154 swine flu victims have died since the virus emerged in April.

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WHO said that includes 338 deaths reported in the week leading up to last Friday.

More than 300 of the new deaths were in the Americas, bringing the death toll in that region to 1,008 since the virus first emerged in Mexico and the United States, and developed into the global epidemic.

WHO also said there is no evidence that the new H1N1 virus is mutating into a more dangerous form, but that six patients have been found with a virus resistant to Tamiflu, the most commonly used swine flu drug.

Laboratory confirmed cases of the disease have reached 162,380, but WHO said this number understates the total caseload because hard-hit countries are no longer testing all the people with flu symptoms. At least 168 countries and territories have reported confirmed swine flu cases.

2 billion could fall ill
Also Tuesday, WHO stuck to its statement that about two billion people could catch H1N1 influenza by the time the flu pandemic ends.

"By the end of a pandemic, anywhere between 15-45 percent of a population will have been infected by the new pandemic virus," WHO spokeswoman Aphaluck Bhatiasevi said in a statement. "Thirty percent is a midpoint estimate and 30 percent of the world's population is 2 billion."

But she added: "We must remember however, that attempts to estimate infection rates can only be very rough."

Early in the outbreak, which was first detected in April, Dr Keiji Fukuda, acting Assistant Director-General of the U.N. agency, fueled accusations the WHO was creating panic about the disease when he used the two billion figure.

But the WHO, which raised its global flu alert to the highest level on June 11, declaring a worldwide pandemic, has since said the strain is already spreading much faster than previous flu pandemics.

At the same time, because most victims suffer only mild symptoms, it has told countries they no longer need to try to report each case, but concentrate on monitoring suspicious concentrations of the disease and tracking deaths.

As the northern hemisphere autumn approaches, and with it the onset of seasonal flu, the WHO is working with drug companies to ensure vaccines to cope both with H1N1 and seasonal flu will be available.

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said the agency hoped to give an update on its vaccine plans later this week. Leading flu vaccine makers include Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline and Solvay.

H1N1 rapidly became the most commonly isolated virus in flu cases in South America and Australia after seasonal flu started there, Bhatiasevi said. But that may be a distorted picture, because specimens for testing were often associated with events such as school closures or screening of travelers where H1N1 was suspected anyway.

In South Africa, where H1N1 arrived later, many cases of the seasonal flu virus H3N2 were reported, but as the flu season wanes and H3N2 cases decrease, H1N1 has begun to make up a much higher proportion of flu cases there.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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