WHO: Raises Pandemic Threat A Level
Friday, May 1st, 2009
It has been established that the WHO’s emergency committee has raised the pandemic threat level for swine flu last night after the death toll in Mexico rose above 150 according to a report from the Guardian (28 04 09).
In addition it has also been disclosed that the number of cases have doubled in the United States and infections have been confirmed in the UK.
Action that has been taken thus far is to cancel flights to Mexico as from this morning and arrangements are being put in place to get home any British holidaymakers. First choice and Thompson’s have grounded any flights out of Manchester and alternative holidays or refunds have been offered to passengers due to fly out. Repatriation is also due to start today to get UK customers home.
Furthermore, British citizens living in Mexico are being advised by the Foreign Office to “consider whether they should remain”.
According to the WHO committee, the increased threat level, from phase three to phase four has been recognised because there has been a significant difference established towards a pandemic, but stress that it was not inevitable.
Alan Johnson, The health secretary, will chair a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergencies committee this morning.
Medics at Manchester airport treated a passenger arriving from Mexico this morning who had complained of feeling unwell on the flight, the Health Protection Agency said. Tests were being done to find out if the young woman had swine flu. She had been sent home.
The first confirmed case in Europe came yesterday in Spain, where 26 other cases are suspected. There are four suspected cases in the Irish Republic.
The suspected number of deaths rose to 152 in Mexico, with nearly 2,000 people believed to be infected. Today, a South Korean woman tested positive for swine flu, making her a “probable” case, the country’s authorities said.
In an indication of the seriousness with which the threat is being taken in the UK, the Guardian has learned that if the situation deteriorates Johnson is considering warning the entire population to set up a support network of friends and relatives, so they can be quickly quarantined at home if they are thought to have symptoms. The friends would then collect medicine on their behalf. He abandoned plans to give this advice as one of his four key messages yesterday in a Commons statement.
The WHO have said that they are ‘very concerned’ in relation to the spread, after bringing forward a meeting of its emergency committee to raise the pandemic level to phase four, which recognises that there is now sustained transmission of the infection from human to human. It is two phases short of a pandemic.
With reference to Mexico’s health secretary, José Ángel Córdova, he has said that he expects more people to die. From that perspective the government closed schools across the country. Nearly 2,000 people had been treated in hospital for suspected infection, he said. Half of them had been released.
Córdova admitted that the health authorities lacked the staff to check on all suspected cases. Some foreign health officials fear such difficulties may be contributing to the disease’s spread.
Of more concern, the number of cases among students at a school in New York rose to 28, with more than 100 suspected. That has brought the number of confirmed cases in the US to 42 in five states, twice as many as reported at the weekend.