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WHO raises swine flu alert to phase 5

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WHO’s director general Dr Margaret Chan has raised the current level of the swine flu pandemic alert from phase 4 to 5, only one short of a full pandemic.

In a statement released today the World Health Organization urged governments to begin activating their pandemic plans, including heightened surveillance, early detection and treatment and infection-control measures in all health facilites.

Announcing the change in alert status, Dr Chan said: ‘Based on assessment of all available information, and following several expert consultations, I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5. Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world.’

She said action should be undertaken with ‘increased urgency’. But she added: ‘On the positive side, the world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history.’

Retired nurses may also be called back to service to help community nurses manage their case loads if the disease takes hold.

Phase 5 is characterised by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region.

While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalise the organisation, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

Outside of Mexico there has been only one confirmed death and symptoms elsewhere have been described as mild to moderate


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Readers' comments (1)

  • She should know. She and Prof. Shortridge stopped the pandemic happening when she was director of health in 1997 of Hong Kong. She will have not atken this step lightly and weighed it up against here vast experience of stopping a previous probable pandemic. Her rapid decision then to adopt Prof. Shortridge's strategy probably saved millions of lives. Overall Margaret Chan is the best person in the world to head up the WHO and we should take great notice of what she says for the good of all.

    Dr David Hill
    World Innovation Foundation Charity
    Bern, Switzerland

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