64 countries affected by ‘moderate’ swine flu, says WHO

June 3rd, 2009 - 12:09 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, June 2 (DPA) The World Health Organisation (WHO) said Tuesday that 64 countries have seen cases of the new influenza A(H1N1) virus, with a global total of 18,965 infections.
Most of the cases were in North America. An overwhelming majority of the 117 deaths related to the disease were in Mexico.

Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s chief of health security, said the disease was continuing its spread, with some countries in Europe starting to show early signs of community spread.

“It is clear the virus continues to spread internationally,” he said.

The Southern Hemisphere would have to be closely watched, Fukuda said, as it was going into its regular flu season. Chile, he noted, was seeing a large amount of swine flu cases compared to the normal seasonal virus.

The WHO has its pandemic influenza alert at Phase 5, the penultimate level. To raise it to Phase 6, the WHO said it would need to see sustained community spread outside North America.

“We are at Phase 5 but getting closer to Phase 6,” Fukuda told reporters.

The WHO has said it will also include the severity of the virus in determining a phase change.

Regarding the disease’s virulence, he said it was “probably fair to call the situation something like moderate right now”.

Fukuda said the WHO would “continue to develop ways to assess severity”.

“Assessing severity is a rather difficult job,” he said, adding that it was not based “just on the quality of the virus and its ability to harm, but a combination of that virulence and the vulnerability of populations”.

The WHO would also work more closely with countries so they could plan their actions. Fukuda said this would “help reduce some of the more drastic actions, which may be uncalled for”.

Some governments imposed ban on import of pig meat from affected countries, in spite of WHO’s insistence that there was no danger from eating well-cooked pork. Egypt announced it would cull the country’s herds of swine.

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