Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 15:45 UK

Cases of swine flu near 10,000

Passengers wearing masks at a staion in Tokyo, 19 May 2009
Confirmed cases of swine flu in Japan have climbed rapidly

Nearly 10,000 cases of swine flu have been confirmed in 40 countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

The WHO said 79 people are known to have died from the new virus.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told the World Health Assembly that "global solidarity" was needed, particularly regarding distributing any vaccine.

Some medical charities have suggested that the large vaccine orders already placed by wealthy countries will mean there will not be enough for everyone.

The WHO says the global tally of swine flu cases stands at 9,830, after rising by 1,001 in one day.

Most of the new flu victims were in Mexico, which reported some 545 cases, and the US, where 409 new cases were confirmed. There were also 34 new cases in Japan.

Five confirmed cases were reported in Panama, three in Chile, two in El Salvador and one each in the UK, Peru and China.

Five new deaths have also been reported - four in Mexico and one in the US.

Scramble for vaccines

Mr Ban Ki-moon and WHO head Margaret Chan held talks with about 30 pharmaceutical companies about commitments over the production of a vaccine.

Ban Ki-moon: "Global solidarity must be at the heart of the world's response"

Addressing the WHO annual assembly later, he said: "We do not yet know how far and how fast it will spread, how serious the illness will be and, indeed, how many lives will be lost."

Calling for "solidarity", he said everyone must have access to drugs and vaccines.

He added: "It means that self-defeating restrictions on trade and travel are avoided."

Pharmaceutical companies are committed to producing a seasonal flu vaccine and somehow capacity has to be found to produce an affordable swine flu vaccine as well, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports.

Rich countries such as Britain and the US have pre-ordered vast stocks of such a vaccine before a single dose has been produced, leading to concerns about future global supplies.

Michele Childs of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said that wealthy countries were "putting in place these agreements with vaccine manufacturers to basically jump the queue".

"What needs to be done is all of the countries need to agree how it will be equably shared, based on need, so if one country has got a huge outbreak then they need to be getting the vaccines first," she said.

"But that debate is not happening."

Schools closed

In Japan the number of swine flu cases has continued to rise rapidly.

The new cases brought the total number of people to have caught the virus in Japan to at least 176, according to authorities there.

Just four cases had been confirmed in Japan as of Friday - people who had returned from Canada.

The first case in someone who had not been abroad - a 17-year-old student in Kobe - was reported on Saturday.

Japanese media say the new wave of infections makes Japan the fourth-most infected country in the world, after Mexico, the US and Canada.

Officials doubled the closures of schools and universities in Hyogo and Osaka on Tuesday, bringing the total to more than 4,000.

None of the patients in the new wave of Japanese infections were reported to be in serious condition.

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