Dr. Margaret Chan Director-General of the World Health Organization issued a statement today raising the world pandemic alert level to 6 making the 2009 H1N1 “swine” flu an official pandemic.
In her statement, she gave cause for optimism:
We are in the earliest days of the pandemic. The virus is spreading under a close and careful watch.
No previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning. The world can now reap the benefits of investments, over the last five years, in pandemic preparedness. We have a head start. This places us in a strong position. But it also creates a demand for advice and reassurance in the midst of limited data and considerable scientific uncertainty.
Additionally, under the terms of the phase 6 declaration, the WHO also rated the pandemic severity as “moderate.”
According to the WHO, moderate severity means:
- Most people recover from infection without the need for hospitalization or medical care.
- Overall, national levels of severe illness from influenza A(H1N1) appear similar to levels seen during local seasonal influenza periods, although high levels of disease have occurred in some local areas and institutions.
- Overall, hospitals and health care systems in most countries have been able to cope with the numbers of people seeking care, although some facilities and systems have been stressed in some localities.
Updated with press conference audio: