WHO concludes emergency meeting; pandemic declaration expected

June 11th, 2009 - 7:55 pm ICT by admin  

GENEVA (BNO NEWS) — The World Health Organization concluded an emergency meeting on Thursday afternoon and is expected to declare a full scale swine flu pandemic within hours, BNO News has learned.

“The emergency meeting has finished,” Sarah Russell, who is a spokeswoman for the health organization, told BNO News. Russell, who was not able to provide details on the outcome of the meeting, said that Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan would be holding a press conference at 12 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. Geneva time). “The Director-General has decided to give a press conference at six so she can explain what is going on to everybody then,” she said. The briefing will be held in the Executive Board room of the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Russell said the council discussed a number of topics, including the pandemic alert scale. It is widely expected that the organization will now raise the pandemic alert level from 5 to 6, declaring the H1N1 flu virus, better known as swine flu, as a global pandemic. The disease has seen a sustained worldwide spread in the past month although most of the cases have been mild. According to the latest update, there have been 27,737 confirmed cases of swine flu, 141 of them resulting in fatalities.

Asked what a level 6 would mean, Russel said: “It means that an influenza pandemic is underway and a pandemic means that a virus which is new to humans has appeared, that its spreading, and that it is causing disease in many parts of the world.”

The pandemic alert scale has seen a lot of criticism, especially since the outbreak of the H1N1 virus, as it does not reflect the severity of the outbreak. Russel said she was not aware of any plans to possibly change the criteria for the scale.

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