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Monday 28th May 2018

'Too late' to contain swine flu

28th April 2009

International health experts say it is now too late to contain the outbreaks of swine influenza reported in Mexico, Canada and the United States, saying that a global pandemic could be on the way.


The international threat level for an influenza pandemic has now been raised.

An Emergency Committee of the World Health Organisation (WHO) held a second meeting on 27 April to review all available data from confirmed outbreaks of A(H1N1) swine influenza and to assess the risk of the continued spread of the disease.

As a result, Director-General Margaret Chan raised the level of pandemic alert from phase 3 to phase 4, indicating that the likelihood of a pandemic has increased, but that it is not inevitable.

The experts made the decision because human-to-human transmission of the virus, which is normally contracted after direct contact between pigs and humans, was confirmed.

The virus was also shown to be capable of causing disease outbreaks in a community.

Chan said that containment of the outbreak was no longer feasible, and called on health authorities to focus on mitigation measures.

Borders should not be closed, however, and international travel should not be restricted, she said.

However, anyone who was ill should delay international travel, and anyone who experienced symptoms following international travel should seek medical attention.

She said the production of seasonal influenza vaccine should continue subject to re-evaluation as the situation evolves.

WHO said it will facilitate the process needed to develop a vaccine effective against A(H1N1) virus.

The European Union said it had already responded rapidly to the current threat to public health, and was closely monitoring the situation.

"We are making use of all our information channels, the mechanisms set in the past and the experience gained during the bird flu crisis, for the exchange of data and for the monitoring of the situation," EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said in a statement.

Diseases like the one due to swine influenza virus A(H1N1) could represent a global challenge, in particular because of rapid and frequent international travel, Vassiliou said.

She said officials were working with global health experts to understand precisely the mechanism of transmission, to evaluate the potential danger to the health of citizens, and the resources to treat patients, such as vaccines and antivirals.

The EU was currently considering the correct medical countermeasures to put in place to counter the threat of swine flu, Vassiliou added.


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