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WHO Declares Swine Flu Pandemic

Pandemic Status Means Swine Flu Bug Is More Widespread, Not More Severe

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But the WHO held off making the declaration in order to give nations more time to get their pandemic plans in place. Most of these plans were based on fears of pandemic H5N1 bird flu. Bird flu plans called for drastic measures that are not appropriate for dealing with swine flu.

The WHO pandemic flu stages are:

  • Phase 1 to Phase 3: Predominantly animal infections
  • Phase 4: Sustained human-to-human spread
  • Phase 5 to Phase 6: Widespread human infection
  • Post-Peak: Possibility of recurrent events
  • Post-Pandemic: Disease activity at seasonal levels

The WHO pandemic staging system had been at Phase 3 -- human infections with a new virus, but without consistent person-to-person spread -- because of the H5N1 bird flu. When swine flu began spreading across the Americas, the WHO quickly raised the alert level to Phase 4 and then to Phase 5.

But WHO member nations asked the WHO to hold off on declaring Phase 6 until it could issue action recommendations appropriate for swine flu.

For more information on what a swine flu pandemic means for you, see the WebMD Pandemic FAQ. For more information on swine flu, see the WebMD Swine Flu FAQ.

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