Friday, June 5, 2009

WHO getting closer to declaring A/H1N1 pandemic, says official

WHO getting closer to declaring A/H1N1 pandemic, says official

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As the A/H1N1 flu virus spreads further around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) is getting closer to declaring a full pandemic, a senior official of the UN agency said on Tuesday.

"Globally we believe that we are at phase 5, but we are getting closer to phase 6," said WHO Assistant Director-general Dr. Keiji Fukuda, referring to the WHO's six-phase pandemic alert system.

The new virus is causing more and more infections in countries outside of North America, notably in Britain, Spain, Japan, Australia and Chile, Fukuda told a news conference in Geneva.

"We still are waiting for evidence of really widespread community activity in these countries," he said.

According to the WHO's current pandemic alert system, phase 6 will mean the A/H1N1 flu virus causes sustained and community-level human-to-human transmission in regions outside of North America, so far the only region where community-level outbreak has been confirmed.

So far the virus has caused nearly 19,000 cases of infections in 64 countries and regions, including 117 deaths, the WHO said.

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