Raising pandemic alert level to 6 still possible: WHO

May 3rd, 2009 - 7:20 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, May 3 (Xinhua) The World Health Organization (WHO) said Saturday that the risk of a pandemic caused by the A/H1N1 virus was still very high and there was still the possibility to raise the alert level to Phase 6 from the current Phase 5.
“At the present time, I would still propose that a pandemic is imminent because we are seeing the disease spread,” Michael Ryan, the agency’s director for global alert and response, told a news briefing in Geneva.

“This is the time for us to prepare, and be ready,” he said.

The WHO’s current pandemic alert level remains at Phase 5, which is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus in two or more countries in only one WHO region.

Currently the sustained spread of the virus is still confined to the region of North America, notably Mexico and the US.

Although human cases have also been confirmed in Europe and Asia, there is still no evidence suggesting that sustained community outbreaks have occurred in the two regions, according to the WHO official.

Ryan warned that the possibility to raise to pandemic alert Phase 6, which means sustained community outbreaks in North America, cannot be ruled out.

“At this point, we have to expect that Phase 6 will be reached, and we have to hope that it is not reached,” he said.

Mexico, the epicntre of the outbreak, has officially reported 397 confirmed human cases of infection, including 16 deaths. The US government has reported 160 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death.

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