At least 12,220 deaths from H1N1 flu have been formally confirmed around the globe but the pandemic appears to be declining, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
The death figure, set as of Dec. 27, was around 700 up on the toll a week previously. The week before that registered a rise of about 1500 deaths.
The report said the most active areas of current transmission were in central and eastern Europe, with focal points in recent weeks reported in Georgia, Montenegro and Ukraine.
In other parts of eastern and in southern Europe — ranging from Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia's Urals region, all respiratory infections — including seasonal flu — were widespread.
Despite the recent focus on H1N1, which emerged in April, WHO estimates that seasonal flu kills from 250,000 to 300,000 people around the world each year.
Speaking in Geneva on Tuesday, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that the H1N1 pandemic — being tackled widely with vaccination campaigns — may not be conquered until 2011 and argued for constant vigilance against the virus.
The latest WHO update said that in western Europe, transmission of H1N1 remained widespread and active but overall activity of the disease had peaked.
In North America — the United States, Canada and Mexico — transmission was also widespread but had declined substantially in all three countries, as it had largely in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
In East Asia — China, Japan and Taiwan — transmission also appeared to be declining, the WHO said.