Emergencies preparedness, response

What is phase 6?

Updated 11 June 2009

What is phase 6?

Phase 6 is a pandemic, according to the WHO definition.

What about severity?

At this time, WHO considers the overall severity of the influenza pandemic to be moderate. This assessment is based on scientific evidence available to WHO, as well as input from its Member States on the pandemic's impact on their health systems, and their social and economic functioning.

The moderate assessment reflects that:

  • Most people recover from infection without the need for hospitalization or medical care.
  • Overall, national levels of severe illness from influenza A(H1N1) appear similar to levels seen during local seasonal influenza periods, although high levels of disease have occurred in some local areas and institutions.
  • Overall, hospitals and health care systems in most countries have been able to cope with the numbers of people seeking care, although some facilities and systems have been stressed in some localities.

WHO is concerned about current patterns of serious cases and deaths that are occurring primarily among young persons, including the previously healthy and those with pre-existing medical conditions or pregnancy.

Large outbreaks of disease have not yet been reported in many countries, and the full clinical spectrum of disease is not yet known.

Does WHO expect the severity of the pandemic to change over time?

The severity of pandemics can change over time and differ by location or population.

Close monitoring of the disease and timely and regular sharing of information between WHO and its Member States during the pandemic period is essential to determine future severity assessments, if needed.

Future severity assessments would reflect one or a combination of the following factors:

  • changes in the virus,
  • underlying vulnerabilities, or
  • limitations in health system capacities.

The pandemic is early in its evolution and many countries have not yet been substantially affected.

What is WHO doing to respond?

WHO continues to help all countries respond to the situation. The world cannot let down its guard and WHO must help the world remain and become better prepared.

WHO's support to countries takes three main forms: technical guidance, materials support, and training of health care system personnel.

WHO's primary concern is to strengthen and support health systems in countries with less resources. Health systems need to be able to prevent, detect, treat and mitigate cases of illness associated with this virus.

WHO is also working to make stocks of medicines (such as antivirals and antibiotics) and an eventual pandemic vaccine more accessible and affordable to developing countries.

Both antivirals and vaccines have important roles in treatment and prevention respectively. However, existing stocks of antivirals are unlikely to meet the demand. WHO is working closely with manufacturers to expedite the development of a safe and effective vaccine but it will be some months before it is available.

Therefore, rational use of the limited resources will be essential. And medicines are only part of the response. WHO is also deploying diagnostic kits, medicines and masks and gloves for health care settings, teams of scientific experts, and medical technicians so countries in need can respond to local epidemics.

A pandemic sets national authorities in motion to implement preparedness plans, identify cases as efficiently as possible, and minimize serious illness and deaths with proper treatment.

The goal is to reduce the impact of the pandemic on society.

What do I do now? What actions should I look for in my community?

Stay informed. Go to reliable sources of information, including your Ministry of Health, to learn what you can do to protect yourself and stay updated as the pandemic evolves. Community-specific information is available from local or national health authorities.

You can also continue to visit the WHO web site for simple prevention practices and general advice.

WHO is not recommending travel restrictions nor does WHO have evidence of risk from eating cooked pork.

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