The World Health Organization on Thursday declared a global flu pandemic in response to this years outbreak of the HIN1 influenza A virus, commonly referred to as swine flu. It is the first pandemic in 41 years.
I have raised the level from phase 5 to phase 6, said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, M.D., who added that the world is now at the beginning of an influenza pandemic. We are at the earliest phase, Chan said, adding that no previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely in real time. Phase 6, like phase 5, shifts national and local actions from preparedness to response.
Thomas Frieden, M.D., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the WHO declaration does not change any actions in the U.S., which has been acting as if in a pandemic. Also, the announcement does not mean there is a difference in severity, but rather that the virus continues to spread in parts of the world. This is not anywhere near the 1918 pandemic, for example, he said.
In addition, Chan said that the world should anticipate a bleaker picture, especially in developing countries with fewer resources. Countries where the virus appears to have peaked should prepare for a second wave, while countries with fewer cases should remain vigilant, Chan said.