The World Health Organization today raised its alert level for swine flu (Influenza A – H1N1)to Phase 6, announcing the first influenza pandemic since 1968 as the virus continued to spread around the globe. WHO considers the overall severity to be moderate, according to the announcement by WHO Director General Manager Margaret Chan. “We have good reason to believe that this pandemic will be of moderate severity, and we know from experience that severity can vary on many factors from one country to another.”
Although the current swine flu strain is not considered especially deadly, its ability to spread rapidly to different communities met WHO’s criteria for a pandemic. The alert is related to the geographic spread of the virus, not its severity.
Member countries received notice ahead of its formal announcement of the Phase 6 alert, recommending that nations not close borders or restrict travel and trade. The advance notice indicated the agency remains “in close dialogue with influenza vaccine manufacturers.”
“As of yesterday, WHO reported that there had been 27,737 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection, including 141 deaths, in 74 countries. Experts believe, however, that the actual number of infections since the virus came to the world’s attention in late April is far higher.”