Monday, June 1, 2009

Rising number of H1N1 cases worldwide, why no declaration of a pandemic?

We continue to see a rising number of cases in Japan, Australia and the EU, so why has WHO not declared a pandemic?

The current WHO phase alert system for pandemics does not take into account severity. WHO is concerned about raising the alert to phase 6 when severity of the current virus seems limited. WHO has expressed concern that it may cause unnecessary alarm and action on the part of the public and national governments. Additionally, since there is no higher level alert, WHO would have no additional tools to convey the seriousness of the situation should the current H1N1 situation become more severe or another virus (such as H5N1) begins spreading around the globe through human to human transmission.

Dr. Keiji Fukuda,the WHO's assistant director-general, said:
"If you go and declare Phase 6 without very clear evidence that
there is a sort of change in the global situation, it can lead
to extra work for countries without much gain,"

So, the WHO is looking to rewrite the pandemic phases. According to the Washington Post, "Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the deputy director general making the W.H.O. announcement, said that he could not predict exactly what the new rules would be but that criteria would include a
"substantial risk of harm to people," not just the geographic spread of a relatively benign virus."

For more on rewriting the definition of a pandemic:

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