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Swine flu pandemic declared by WHO

11th June 2009

The World Health Organisation has declared a global flu pandemic.

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The new status, the highest, was declared after an emergency meeting and means the swine flu virus is spreading in at least two regions of the world with rising cases in the UK, Australia, Japan and Chile.

However, the WHO said the move did not mean the virus was causing more severe illness or more deaths.

Latest figures show that worldwide there have been almost 30,000 cases and 141 deaths with the H1N1 virus now in 74 countries.

WHO chief Dr Margaret Chan said: "We have evidence to suggest we are seeing the first pandemic of the 21st century.

"Moving to pandemic phase six does not imply we will see increased in deaths or serious cases."

At this stage the WHO is not suggesting borders be closed but Dr Chan said it was important to strike the right balance between complacency and vigilance.

It is the first flu pandemic since 1968, which claimed one million lives.

In the UK there have been more than 800 cases of swine flu with a high incidence in Scotland.

Anitvirals such as Tamiflu are being stockpiled by the government, however, the chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson said the WHO declaration of a pandemic would not significantly change the way the UK was dealing with swine flu at the moment.

Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the move means countries need to be ready to implement pandemic plans immediately but the UK was already operating at a "heightened state of readiness".

 

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