30/04/2009

Pandemic Level Alert Now One Step Below Global

The World Health Organisation has increased the official alert level of pandemic for the second time this week.

WHO Director, Margaret Chan, announced last night that the alert level would go up to 5 in a scale of 6, one step under that of a global pandemic.

Level 5 is declared when it is confirmed that the virus can easily be transmitted between humans in at least two countries of one of the regions in which the WHO has world divided. In this case, Mexico and USA.

Spain yesterday registered the first infection of swine flu in a person that hadn't been in Mexico, through contact with someone who had recently returned from there.

Also yesterday the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta reported the death of a 23-month-old baby in hospital in Houston (Texas).

It is the first death outside Mexico, although the north American authorities stated that he was a Mexican child visiting the country.

Moreover, the CDC said it also seems that the more dangerous variant of the virus is emerging in the USA.

These new factors also influenced the decision made by the WHO, that has already registered 141 confirmed cases at nine countries.

This includes three new cases in Britain: a girl aged 12, whose school was closed and whose classmates received antiviral drugs, a 22-year-old man from London and a 41-year-old woman from Birmingham.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said yesterday all of them are responding well to treatment at home.

Dr Chan, the WHO top medic, has also advised all countries immediately "activate their pandemic preparedness plans" but said that for the first time in history it is possible "to track the infection in real time".

She indicated that there was considerable work undertaken previously, thanks to the threat of avian flu several years ago.

However, Dr Chan admitted that not all countries have adequate preventative projects, as what can be considered a minor epidemic in a rich country will be much more serious in a developing country.

She added: "Influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutations and unpredictable behaviour. We do not have all the answers immediately, but we will get them."

WHO still haven't recommend closing the borders or cancelling travel plans. About the consumption of pigmeat, she said that if it's properly cooked it can definitely be eaten without danger.

The Mexican newspaper El Universal has reported that the federal government has cancelled "non essential" economical activities in the public and private sectors from 1st to 5th May in order to reinforce the prevention measures.

The Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, affirmed that the most safe place to stay is at home.

See: Three More Swine Flu Cases Confirmed In The UK

(AC/BMcC)

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