WHO: Influenza pandemic alert raised to level 6
11 JUNE | GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - In late April, WHO announced the emergence of a novel influenza A virus. This particular H1N1 strain has not circulated previously in humans. The virus is contagious, spreading easily from one person to another, and from one country to another. As of today, nearly 30,000 confirmed cases have been reported in 74 countries. According to WHO, further spread of the H1N1 virus considered inevitable.
On the basis of available evidence, WHO has determined that the scientific criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met. As a result, WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan decided to raise the level of influenza pandemic alert to phase 6, declaring "the world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic."
"Globally, we have good reason to believe that this pandemic, at least in its early days, will be of moderate severity" said Dr Chan in making the announcement. "On present evidence, the overwhelming majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make a rapid and full recovery, often in the absence of any form of medical treatment."
Most cases of severe and fatal infections have been in adults between the ages of 30 and 50 years, notes WHO. This pattern is significantly different from that seen during epidemics of seasonal influenza, when most deaths occur in frail elderly people.
In addition, many severe cases have occurred in people with underlying chronic conditions, according to WHO. Pregnant women must take particular precautions, as they would against the seasonal flu.
For more information on the Influenza A (H1N1) virus and guidance for individuals, communities and national authorities, please visit WHO's website. This will be constantly updated as new information becomes available.