U.S., Mexican, Canadian leaders to address H1N1 flu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada will address ways to deal with an expected spreading of the H1N1 influenza virus this fall at a summit next week and issue a statement, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

Women wearing surgical masks arrive for a H1N1 flu screening at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in New Delhi August 6, 2009. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli

President Barack Obama met with some of his top officials on Thursday to discuss vaccine development and measures Americans should take to deal with the swine flu virus, said John Brennan, White House deputy national security adviser.

Obama travels to Guadalajara, Mexico, on Sunday for talks on Sunday and Monday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In its latest update last week, the World Health Organization reported 162,230 confirmed cases and 1,154 deaths from the virus. But flu experts said this probably reflected only a fraction of the true count as not every patient can be diagnosed with a lab test.

Experts expect the flu will pick up activity in the northern hemisphere’s autumn and the WHO predicted one third of the world’s population -- 2 billion people -- will eventually become infected.

Brennan said the three leaders will issue a joint statement about the collaboration they are taking to address H1N1 in coming weeks and months to try to limit its severity.

“I think everybody recognizes that H1N1 is going to be a challenge for all of us and there are people who are going to get sick in the fall and die. People have been dying over the past number of months from H1N1,” Brennan said.

He said Obama was updated on vaccine development and on mitigation measures, such as the possibility of school closings, and ways to communicate to people to wash their hands and cover their mouth when they sneeze as a way to avoid spreading the flu.

The first vaccines to combat H1N1 swine flu should be approved and ready for use in some countries beginning in September, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Leading flu vaccine makers include Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Baxter, CSL and Solvay.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham