WHO: Swine flu pandemic has begun, 1st in 41 years
BY MARIA CHENG and FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press Writer
June 11, 2009
GENEVA – The World Health Organization told its member nations it was declaring a swine flu pandemic Thursday — the first global flu epidemic in 41 years — as infections climbed in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere.
In a statement sent to member countries, WHO said it decided to raise the pandemic warning level from phase 5 to 6 — its highest alert — after holding an emergency meeting on swine flu with its experts.
The long-awaited pandemic decision is scientific confirmation that a new flu virus has emerged and is quickly circling the globe. It will trigger drugmakers to speed up production of a swine flu vaccine and prompt governments to devote more money toward efforts to contain the virus.
"At this early stage, the pandemic can be characterized globally as being moderate in severity," WHO said in the statement, urging nations not to close borders or restrict travel and trade. "(We) remain in close dialogue with influenza vaccine manufacturers."
On Wednesday, WHO said 74 countries had reported nearly 27,737 cases of swine flu, including 141 deaths.
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