WHO Declares Swine Flu Pandemic

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global flu pandemic for Swine Flu after documenting the spread of the A/H1N1 virus to 74 nations where more than 300,000 people have been infected and 141 have died.

According to a report by Spero News, WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan said, “We have evidence to suggest we are seeing the first pandemic of the 21st Century.”

She said the declaration does not necessarily mean there will be an increase in the number of deaths or serious cases, but is a formal statement about the geographical spread of a disease they no longer consider stoppable. 

In all probability, the pandemic will last one to two years, officials said.

Swine Flu seems to target young people under 25 years of age. Symptoms are similar to those of a cold and fever. The WHO is asking anyone who presents these symptoms to have a check up.  Means to reduce infection are the usual precautions: Good personal hygiene, such as washing hands, avoid crowded public places, or close contact with someone who has the virus.

Worst hit by Swine Flu is the United States (13,217 cases), Mexico (5,717), Canada (2,446), Australia (1,224), Chile (1694) and the United Kingdom (666).

However, experts are warning that poorer nations, especially those in the southern hemisphere now heading into their winter season, face the greatest risk from the flu pandemic. Unfortunately, these are the same nations that cannot afford to stockpile vaccines. WHO will now ask drug makers to speed up production of a swine flu vaccine, which is not expected before September. The declaration will also prompt governments to spend more to contain the virus.

For the WHO, one of the worst case scenarios for the future is a possible mutation of the A/H1N1 virus into a more virulent form that will hit the northern hemisphere next winter, following the same pattern of the Spanish Flu of 1926 that killed nearly 50 million people.

The last global pandemic was the Hong Kong Flu of 1968, which left 1 million people dead. Ordinary flu usually causes the deaths of between 250 to 500 thousand people.

At the present time, the WHO is not recommending closure of borders or any restrictions on the movement of people, goods or services.

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