WHO Expected to Declare Level 6 “Within Days”

Laura MacInnis
Reuters
April 30, 2009

Swine flu will carry the name “pandemic” even if the new virus turns out to cause mainly mild symptoms as it sweeps the world, raising questions about how serious the global alert actually is.

Although it has been deadly in the disease epicenter, Mexico, and caused the death of one Mexican infant in the United States, in other countries people infected with swine flu have fared well, with diarrhea the biggest complaint.

The World Health Organization is expected to move quickly to designate a full pandemic — at level 6 of its 6-point scale — within days to reflect the continuing spread of swine flu among people who have not been to Mexico, including in Europe.

Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, on Wednesday night raised the world flu alert level from 4 to 5 and said: “It is really all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.”

Echoing other infectious disease experts, and drawing on her experience fighting SARS and bird flu outbreaks as health director of Hong Kong, she said viruses such as the H1N1 swine strain needed to be closely watched in case they worsen.

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