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WHO Raises Swine Flu Alert To Five

The World Health Organisation on Wednesday raised its flu alert to phase five out of six, WHO chief Margaret Chan said, signalling that a pandemic was “imminent” following the swine flu outbreak.

“I have decided to raise the influenza pandemic alert from phase four to phase five,” the WHO director general announced after an emergency meeting of the UN health agency’s pandemic experts.

“This is a signal to governments, ministries of health… to the pharmaceutical industry, that certain actions now should be undertaken with increased urgency,” she told journalists.

“All countries should immediately now activate their pandemic preparedness plans,” she added.

She underlined that the threat following the swine flu outbreak focused on Mexico and the United States “must be taken seriously.”

Phase five, one step short of a full pandemic or phase six, is characterised as a “strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalise… the planned mitigation measures is short,” according to the WHO’s global emergency planning.

Chan explained that experts had decided to raise the alert as not only were there “sustained” human to human transmission cases in Mexico, but also in the United States.

“When we see two countries in one WHO region providing evidence to that effect, we are moving into phase five,” she said.

A Mexican toddler became the first person to die in the United States of swine flu on Wednesday, as US health officials said the number of infections recorded reached at least 91 in 10 states.

Mexico meanwhile on the same day nearly doubled its number of confirmed swine flu cases to 49, including seven deaths from the virus.

Chan said that while it is understandable that people are “anxious,” the issue needed to be managed in a calm manner.

“It’s important that we do not overkill. We need to maintain a level of calmness so that we will continue to manage this in a rational manner,” she said.

She stressed for instance that the WHO does not recommend the closure of borders or restricting the movement of people or goods.

“Pork can be eaten safely if cooked properly. There’s no reason why people who love to eat pork should stop eating now,” she said emphatically.

Thanks to preparations made following the avian flu outbreak, countries were also better placed than before to deal with a pandemic.

“Preparedness measures undertaken because of the H5N1 influenza was an investment and we are now benefitting from this investment,” she said.

Chan said that while the spread was established, “the biggest question right now was how severe the pandemic might be.”

Indeed, the WHO fell short of ordering production of a pandemic vaccine, a move which has been described as a significant decision as it would mean disrupting the production of seasonal flu vaccines.

“We don’t have enough evidence to push the pandemic vaccine button,” she said.

Meanwhile, she urged help for developing countries, warning that they faced a potentially greater threat from a flu pandemic than wealthy nations with developed health systems and funding for drugs.

“We know that influenza may cause mild disease in affluent countries, but more diseases with higher mortality in developing countries,” she said.

“The international community should treat this as an opportunity to ramp up the response. After all, it is really all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic,” she added.

The first three WHO pandemic alert phases are triggered by the emergence of a new flu virus that jumps from animals into humans.

But the subsequent levels are largely dictated by the geographical spread of the new virus, rather than the strength of its symptoms or mortality rates.

Under the rulebook, phase six, a pandemic, would be reached if or when the swine flu virus was found to be passing in a sustained manner among humans in towns or the wider community in at least another continent to the Americas.

Source : AFP

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1 Comment so far

  1. jahaber on May 2nd, 2009

    Salam sejahtera.

    kita rakyat malaysia mesti bersatu padu. Buat apa PAS pun kata nak bertanding. PKR pun nak bertanding.
    Anwar perlu teliti kalau wakil mereka macam budak Fairuz itu lari dari tanggungjawab, siapa yang tanggungjawab? Kan rugi duit dan masa rakyat?
    Fairus dengan angkuh sekarang kata dia tidak bersalah dan akan balik kat politik selepas balik dari melanjutkan pelajaran. Dan PKR setuju dan tepuk tangan!

    Lepas itu, bila orang suruh SPR teliti cadangan kenakan penalti terhadap wakil rakyat yang berhenti tanpa sebab munasabah, geng Pakatan, seperti Lim Kit Siang dan Faris Musa (timblan AMK) kata Dato’ Mukhriz (timbalan menteri MITI) dan Tan Keng Liang (ketua pemuda gerakan kedah) yang keluarkan cadangan penalti terhadap orang yang tidak bertanggungjawab sebagai kenyataan daripada orang “tidak berakal”. Lihat kat:-

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