'The world should stay on its toes,' WHO says on A/H1N1 pandemic

June 12, 2009 12:06 pm 

By Francis M. Bilowan

MANILA, PNA (June 12) –- The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday reaffirmed that influenza A/H1N1 is a virus of moderate severity which produces mild illness in the majority of cases.

The organization’s Western Pacific Office issued the statement after the WHO raised its influenza pandemic alert level for the virus to Phase six, which signifies the beginning of global spread.

"Phase six indicates how far the pandemic has spread, and is not a sign the disease has grown more dangerous", said Dr. Shin Young-soo, WHO's Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

"But the world and in particular the Western Pacific Region needs to be on its toes. Pandemics move in waves and the next wave could bring more severe disease, especially to less developed countries which may have poor health care systems and many people with underlying health problems," he added.

As of June 12, more than 30,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza A(H1N1) had been reported by 74 countries. In the Western Pacific Region more than 2200 cases had been reported in nine countries. There have been no deaths from influenza A(H1N1) in the Western Pacific.

Announcing the new pandemic alert level, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said there was good reason to believe that the virus, at least in its early days, would be of moderate severity as most patients had experienced mild symptoms and made a rapid and full recovery.

As the severity of pandemics can change considerably over time and differ by country and population, WHO will continue to assess the pandemic's global impact and will update its severity classification regularly throughout the pandemic period.

WHO advises governments to calibrate their responses to match the circumstances in their communities. This may mean that some countries will focus in the short term on containment measures, while others will move from containment to mitigation and care of the vulnerable members of society.

Calibration of responses should be in keeping with the outbreak situation in each country.

“Countries with no cases are advised to remain vigilant and enhance surveillance. Countries with widespread community transmission should ensure patients receive prompt health care, and consider shifting from containment to mitigation while taking steps to increase surveillance efforts and laboratory capacity,” Shin said.(PNA) /V3/FMB/


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