The World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert to 5, its second-highest level Wednesday, indicating the outbreak of the H1N1 virus flu that originated in Mexico is nearing widespread human infection.
According to the WHO, "while most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short."
The annoucement came as the number of people infected with the flu increased rapidly across the world, and health officials scrambled to get more information about the virus and has no vaccine. About 30 U.S. Marines in southern California on the biggest military base in the United States have been quarantined after one of them was confirmed to have contracted the swine flu virus, the Marine Corps said on Wednesday.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan declared the phase 5 alert after consulting with flu experts from around the world. The decision could lead the global body to recommend additional measures to combat the outbreak, including asking vaccine manufacturers to switch production from seasonal flu vaccines to a pandemic vaccine.
"All countries should immediately now activate their pandemic preparedness plans," Chan told reporters in Geneva. "It really is all of humanity that is under threat in a pandemic."
"It's a virus that we've never seen before," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"There's no background immunity in the population, and it is spreading from human to human, all of which has the potential for a pandemic."
The virus has been reported in 10 states, and the number of people infected with the 2009 H1N1 influenza strain grew to 91 in the U.S., the CDC said Wednesday. That number includes the first U.S. swine flu fatality: a 22-month-old child from Mexico who died of the illness Monday at a Houston, Texas, hospital.
Swine flu’s symptoms are similar to those of the regular flu: fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people also may have a runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
“If you experience any of these symptoms accompanied with fever over 100 degrees with a cough or sore throat, contact your health professional or doctor,” said registered nurse Susie Petro.
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Wednesday, April 29
WHO Not Fluing Around-- Pandemic Probability Raised to Second Highest Level
The following are compilations form from numerous news agencies: