Thursday, June 11, 2009

The world is in a swine flu pandemic, WHO tells some members World Health Organization has privately told several countries that the global pandemic level will be raised to Phase 6 before the end of Thursday, as experts held an emergency meeting in Geneva to discuss the spread of the virus.

Health ministries in Thailand and Indonesia said an email alert from WHO advised them that a pandemic would be declared by midnight local time.

WHO director general Margaret Chan called an emergency conference call with leading flu experts to discuss the outbreak of the virus, which has spread to 74 countries.

Chan will hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. ET, when she is expected to make the official announcement that a pandemic has been declared.

Moving to Phase 6 — the highest level — means a pandemic has been confirmed and the H1N1 virus is spreading from person to person in a sustained manner outside North America, where the outbreak began in April.

The world is in a swine flu pandemic, WHO tells some members

WHO press conference 1800 hrs (GMT+1)

When: 18.00 hrs Geneva time, Thursday 11 June 2009

Where: Executive Board room, WHO headquarters

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) will hold a press conference at 18:00 hrs Geneva time, Thursday, 11 June 2009 on influenza A(H1N1) in the Executive Board room at the WHO headquarters.

Interpretation in French and Spanish will be provided.

Link to the audio file

Live webcast of the press conference

Full coverage of influenza A(H1N1)

The Canadian Press: Argentina's medical services say they are being swamped
Argentines worried they may have swine flu have overwhelmed some emergency medical services at the onset of the South American winter flu season, health officials said Wednesday.

The Health Ministry said Argentina's confirmed caseload has grown to 281, with an additional 1,032 possible cases being studied in labs. More than two-thirds of those sickened were young people, and 29 schools in Buenos Aires and the surrounding area have been closed for two weeks after children tested positive.

Sergio Alejandre, hospitals director for Buenos Aires province, said Wednesday that public hospitals are beefing up because with the arrival of the Southern Hemisphere winter, 'consultations begin to increase ... for respiratory problems, adult flu and bronchitis in children.'

Argentina's medical services say they are being swamped

WHO concludes emergency meeting; pandemic declaration expected

GENEVA (BNO NEWS) -- The World Health Organization concluded an emergency meeting on Thursday afternoon and is expected to declare a full scale swine flu pandemic within hours, BNO News has learned.

'The emergency meeting has finished,' Sarah Russell, who is a spokeswoman for the health organization, told BNO News. Russell, who was not able to provide details on the outcome of the meeting, said that Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan would be holding a press conference at 12 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. Geneva time). 'The Director-General has decided to give a press conference at six so she can explain what is going on to everybody then,' she said. The briefing will be held in the Executive Board room of the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Russell said the council discussed a number of topics, including the pandemic alert scale. It is widely expected that the organization will now raise the pandemic alert level from 5 to 6, declaring the H1N1 flu virus, better known as swine flu, as a global pandemic. The disease has seen a sustained worldwide spread in the past month although most of the cases have been mild. According to the latest update, there have been 27,737 confirmed cases of swine flu, 141 of them resulting in fatalities.

Asked what a level 6 would mean, Russel said: 'It means that an influenza pandemic is underway and a pandemic means that a virus which is new to humans has appeared, that its spreading, and that it is causing disease in many parts of the world.'

The pandemic alert scale has seen a lot of criticism, especially since the outbreak of the H1N1 virus, as it does not reflect the severity of the outbreak. Russel said she was not aware of any plans to possibly change the criteria for the scale.

UPDATE: Moments after the WHO concluded their emergency meeting, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would also hold a press conference at 12.45 p.m. EDT regarding H1N1. It is the first such press conference since May 28, another indication the WHO has decided to raise the alert level to six.

Swine flu outbreak closes Japanese school in Germany

The Japanese school in Dusseldorf has been closed following an outbreak of swine flu which has infected at least 30 pupils, officials in the west German city said Thursday.

Nearly all the cases involved children aged 12, said Heiko Schneitler, head of the Dusseldorf Health Office. Most of the cases were not severe, but one child required hospital treatment, he said.

All the affected students have been placed in quarantine at home with their families, Schneitler said, adding the number of infections was expected to rise because other children had complained of flu symptoms.

Some 30 teachers and 560 students are at the school, which will remain closed until the end of next week, school officials said.

The outbreak raised to more than 100 the number of swine flu cases in Germany, Europe's most populous nation.

Swine flu outbreak closes Japanese school in Germany

Hong Kong Closes Schools as WHO Considers Declaring Pandemic

Hong Kong has closed schools Thursday after the discovery of the city's first cluster of swine flu infections. This comes as the World Health Organization holds an emergency meeting in Geneva to discuss the latest development on the spread of the H1N1 virus.

The cluster of infections was found in a secondary school, where at least 12 pupils fell ill with the H1N1 swine flu virus.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang cut short his trip in mainland China and returned to the territory to take charge of the city's response to the outbreak. On Thursday, Tsang ordered all nurseries, kindergartens, primary and special schools to close for 14 days, in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

Hong Kong Closes Schools as WHO Considers Declaring Pandemic

Reuters: WHO poised to declare first flu pandemic since 1968

The World Health Organisation (WHO) was poised on Thursday (11th june) to declare that the new H1N1 virus has caused the first influenza pandemic in more than 40 years, health sources said on Thursday.

The move will trigger heightened health measures in the WHO's 193 member states as authorities brace for the worldwide spread of the virus that has so far caused mainly mild illness.

Flu experts advising WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, who were due to convene at 1000 GMT, were expected to recommend moving to the top phase 6 on the WHO's six-point scale, the sources said.

That would reflect the fact that the disease was spreading geographically, but not necessarily indicate how virulent it is.

Reuters: WHO poised to declare first flu pandemic since 1968