Signal to all countries to immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans

For the first time in its history the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised its pandemic threat level to level five—just one step below a full blown global pandemic.

In a crisis meeting the WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan said of the swine flu outbreak: ‘I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5.’

‘All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans. Countries should remain on high alert for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia,’ she said.

Chan also signalled that the business community should implement preparedness plans with increased urgency.

‘It is possible that the full clinical spectrum of this disease goes from mild illness to severe disease,’ she warned.

‘From past experience, we also know that influenza may cause mild disease in affluent countries, but more severe disease, with higher mortality, in developing countries.’

“Influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutation and unpredictable behaviour.

‘Influenza viruses are notorious for their rapid mutation and unpredictable behaviour,’ she said.

As of 17:00 GMT, April 30, 11 countries had confirmed 257 cases of swine flu (H1N1), said the WHO.

The United States Government has reported 109 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death. Mexico has reported 97 confirmed human cases of infection, including seven deaths.

The following countries have also reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths - Austria (1), Canada (19), Germany (3), Israel (2), Netherlands (1), New Zealand (3), Spain (13), Switzerland (1) and the United Kingdom (8).

The WHO continued to advise against travel restrictions or closure of borders.