An emergency committee of the World Health Organization (WHO), has agreed on Saturday that the current situation around a swine influenza outbreak in humans in Mexico and the USA constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO director-general, Dr Margaret Chan, said that all countries intensify surveillance for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.
After reviewing available data on the current situation in the Swiss city of Geneva, the WHO committee, composed of international experts in a variety of disciplines, identified a number of gaps in knowledge about the clinical features, epidemiology, and virology of reported cases and the appropriate responses.
The committee also advised that answers to several specific questions were needed to facilitate its work. More information is needed before a decision could be made concerning the appropriateness of the current pandemia alarm ‘phase 3′.
So far, Mexican authorities reported 81 human casualties probably linked to swine flu. Mexican officials said most of those killed so far were young adults – rather than more vulnerable children and the elderly.
WHO’s Gregory Hartl told global news network CNN that the strain of the virus seen in Mexico is worrisome because it has mutated from older strains.
“Any time that there is a virus which changes … it means perhaps the immunities the human body has built up to dealing with influenza might not be adjusted well enough to dealing with this new virus.”
Related news items:
Death toll keeps rising in Mexican swine flu outbreak (26 April 2009)
US: Human swine flu cases rises to 7 (24 April 2009)
US: Human swine flu cases in California (23 April 2009)