Declaration based on spread of disease not severity

The World Health Organisation (WHO) called the new H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak a pandemic based on speed of infection and not because of the severity of the virus.

The declaration came after a steep rise in the number of swine cases in Australia.

Hong Kong, another country badly affected by the swine flu outbreak, has announced it wil close all nurseries and primary schools for two weeks in an effort to contain the virus, according to a BBC report.

The H1N1 outbreak started on a Mexican pig farm and was spotted in April. It spread around the world quickly. As of today, nearly 30,000 confirmed cases have been reported in 74 countries.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, said the world is ‘well positioned to face the threat’, and she praised pandemic preparedness.

The health officials don’t expect to see a sudden and dramatic jump in the death rate. Only 2% of infections so far have developed into severe illness, although this has often been a rapid progression. Most of the victims have been elderly or suffering from a medical condition. Pregnant women are at high risk.

Chan warned of a bleaker picture in countries with limited resources and poor health care. These countries can no longer trace transmissions, she said.

‘We are all in this together, and we will all get through this, together,’ she said.

WHO continues to recommend no restrictions on travel and no border closures.