Tuesday, April 28, 2009

WHO raises Swine Flu threat level to phase 4

Updated at: 2122 PST, Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GENEVA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) raised its pandemic alert level over the swine flu virus to phase four on Tuesday. So far the outbreak has killed up to 149 people in Mexico and spread to the United States, Canada and Europe.

“This can be interpreted as a significant step towards pandemic influenza, but also it is a phase which says that we are not there yet,” acting WHO assistant director-General Keiji Fukuda told a conference here.

Fukuda said the virus was too widespread to make containment feasible and that closing borders and imposing travel restrictions would do no good at this point. It would be prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for those who developed symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, he added.

Some 40 cases have also been confirmed in the US, with 28 of them in New York. The rest are in California, Texas and Ohio. There have also been six cases in Canada.

While EU health commissioner Androulla Vassiliou advised yesterday that people should not travel to affected areas, Minister for Health Mary Harney said yesterday evening she was not advising anybody to restrict their travel.

The WHO has not advised people to restrict their travel either, and the organisation’s advice will be closely monitored and followed.

Meanwhile, all necessary precautionary measures have been completed to prevent the spread of swine flu in Pakistan, Director General Health, Prof Dr Rasheed Jumma said.

Talking to Geo news, he said high alert has been declared at National Institute of Health to cope with any emergency. Also close contacts have been maintained with World Health Organisation to deal with any emergency.

The health authorities have sought the assistance of immigration officials to track down and check the health of passengers who have arrived from the affected countries, Juma said.

Screening of selected international passengers has also been ordered to bolster vigilance, he concluded.

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