Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WHO official says world edging towards pandemic

WHO official says world edging towards pandemic

GENEVA (Reuters) - The spread of H1N1 flu in Australia, Britain, Chile, Japan and Spain has nudged the world closer to a pandemic, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.
The newly-discovered strain had caused more infections than seasonal influenza at the start of Chile's flu season, raising concern about how it would spread in the southern hemisphere, according to Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's acting assistant director-general.
The virus has mainly affected people aged below 60 and caused 117 deaths worldwide, including some otherwise healthy people, he said. For now, the WHO's pandemic scale remained at the second-highest level but the threshold may soon be crossed.

"Globally we believe that we are at Phase 5 but we are getting closer to Phase 6," Fukuda told journalists. "The future impact of this infection has yet to unfold."
He added: "It is probably fair to call the situation something like moderate right now. We do have some hesitation to call the situation mild."

The new flu, a mixture of swine, bird, and human viruses, remains most prevalent in North America but has infected nearly 19,000 people in 64 countries, according to the U.N. agency's latest toll, which tends to lag behind national figures but is considered more secure.
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