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Wednesday 23rd May 2018

Swine flu 'unstoppable' says WHO

3rd July 2009

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the swine flu pandemic is now 'unstoppable'.


Speaking at a health ministers' summit in Cancun, Mexico, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the world was now in the "early days" of the 2009 influenza pandemic caused by the H1N1 virus.

"As we see today, with well over 100 countries reporting cases, once a fully fit pandemic virus emerges, its further international spread is unstoppable," Chan said.

She said the summit had been deliberately held in Mexico to show that worldwide travel restrictions to Mexico, or indeed any other country, would serve "no purpose".

"They do not protect the public. They do not contain the outbreak. And they do not prevent further international spread," Chan said.

Chan said the spread of an influenza pandemic was the "epidemiological equivalent of a tidal wave", because they hit a given area and spread through a population that was either largely or entirely susceptible to infection.

She said a peak of cases was inevitable, especially in densely populated areas of the world, followed by a sharp decline.

She said aggressive control measures could make the peak in infections somewhat less sharp, but only for a while.

"Mexico, and especially Mexico City, experienced this tidal wave of cases, and its peak, back in April," Chan said.

"Other countries, where the virus was introduced later, are experiencing it now. More countries will see this pattern in the months to come."

Chan said the worst for Mexico should now be over, at least during the first wave of the pandemic, saying that the first country to experience a pandemic would not know what hit it in the first days of the outbreak.

She praised the Mexican government for giving the world "an early warning" of what was to come, with rapid and transparent reporting of cases and aggressive control measures.

Chan said the WHO had good reason to believe that this pandemic would be of "moderate severity," but that the first biggest challenge would be faced during the current winter season in the Southern Hemisphere.

She added that most cases of severe and fatal infection continued to occur in people with underlying medical conditions, and that data showed pregnant women were at increased risk of complications.

The H1N1 virus has entered more than 100 countries, infected more than 70,000 people and killed more than 300 worldwide in the two months since it emerged in Mexico.

The UK alone is predicting around 100,000 cases a day by the end of the summer.

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