Wednesday, April 29, 2009

WHO Escalates to Phase 5 on Swine Flu Pandemic

The Geneva-based World Health Organization on Wednesday raised its alert level for the fast-spreading swine flu to its next-to-highest notch, signaling a global pandemic could be imminent.

The move came after the virus spread to at least 10 U.S. states from coast to coast and swept deeper into Europe.

"It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic," said WHO Director General Margaret Chan. "We do not have all the answers right now but we will get them."

In the United States, President Barack Obama mourned the first U.S. death, a Mexican toddler who had traveled with his family to Texas. Total American cases surged to nearly 100, and Obama said wider school closings might be necessary.

In Mexico, where the flu is believed to have originated, officials said Wednesday the disease is now confirmed or suspected in 159 deaths, and nearly 2,500 illnesses.

The WHO said the phase 5 alert means there is sustained human to human spread in at least two countries. It also signals that efforts to produce a vaccine will be ramped up.

El Salvador declares national emergency due to swine flu

Salvadorian President Elias Antonio Saca declared on Tuesday a "national emergency" due to the possibility of swine flu cases detected in the country.

According to information reaching here from San Salvador, Saca said that he signed the "national emergency" after it was confirmed one case in Costa Rica and another two in Guatemala.

Salvadorian Health Minister Jose Guillermo Maza Brizuela will be in charge of the measures to prevent the spread of the disease in the country from Tuesday.

Saca told reporters that the country is "working with the Pan American Health Organization to buy medicine."

Saca said that there is not a big emergency in El Salvador with the need of extreme measures, "we have not reached the stage of closing night clubs or host soccer matches without audience," as it has happened in Mexico.


Epidemic Not Slowing Down

WHO says the swine flu epidemic shows no signs of slowing down.

The epidemic remains at Phase 4 but WHO is getting closer to declaring a Phase 5 pandemic.