Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 11:55 UK

Global swine flu deaths top 700

Mexico City commuters on the metro
The virus was first recorded in Mexico

H1N1 swine flu has killed more than 700 people around the world since the outbreak began four months ago, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

This represents a jump of at least two-thirds from the last official death toll figure of 429, published by the WHO on July 6.

Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, has warned that swine flu will become the biggest flu pandemic ever seen.

However, most cases continue to produce only mild symptoms.

SWINE FLU SYMPTOMS
1. High temperature, tiredness and lowered immunity
2. Headache, runny nose and sneezing
3. Sore throat
4. Shortness of breath
5. Loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea
6. Aching muscles, limb and joint pain
Source: NHS

The overwhelming majority of patients usually recover, even without medical treatment, within a week of falling ill.

The WHO has said the pandemic is developing at such a high speed that it is now pointless to try to document every case.

In past pandemics, flu viruses have needed more than six months to spread as widely as the new H1N1 virus has spread in less than six weeks.

But officials have stressed that there is an ongoing need for all countries to monitor unusual events, such as clusters of severe or fatal cases, or unusual clinical patterns, closely.

Some 125,000 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported worldwide - but the number of actual cases far exceeds that.

WHO spokeswoman Aphaluck Bhatiasevi said a group of experts, including mathematicians, epidemiologists and a virologists, were examining various measures countries could take to slow the spread of the disease.

Ms Bhatiasevi said school closures could be among the recommendations, but that it was up to each country to consider appropriate steps for their situations.

Experts predict that there will be a significant surge of new cases of swine flu in the northern hemisphere when the weather begins to cool in the autumn.



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