Update: On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the H1N1
virus a pandemic. Director-General
Margaret Chan said the virus is now unstoppable but that the
danger is moderate.
The agency repeated its advice to countries not
to close borders or establish travel restrictions but to be watchful. Infections reached nearly 30,000 confirmed cases in 74
countries, including 144 deaths. But infections so far have been mild in most people.
The declaration of the first influenza pandemic in 41 years followed an emergency meeting of flu experts in Geneva. Under the W.H.O.'s system, declaring a "phase 6" or pandemic does not
mean that a disease has become more severe. It only means that there is an
increasing number of infections in different parts of the world.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called a meeting next Monday of the U.N.'s
influenza steering committee to decide "our immediate next steps."
Transcript of earlier radio broadcast:
This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
of Tuesday, seventy-three countries had reported more than twenty-six thousand
cases of the new H1N1 flu virus. A World Health Organization official, Keiji
Fukuda, said these confirmed cases included two hundred forty-nine deaths.
Fukuda, the agency's top flu expert, says the virus continues to spread in
North America. And there are increasing reports from South America as well as
from other southern countries.
Australia has had more than one thousand cases, the
largest number outside North America. The state of Victoria has been most
But the United States has had by far the most confirmed
cases. More than thirteen thousand were reported as of Monday, including twenty-seven
H1N1 outbreak began in Mexico in March. Mexico has reported more than one
hundred deaths. An unusual number of flu cases have been found in young people
who were otherwise healthy.
W.H.O. has an influenza warning system in which phase six means that a pandemic
is taking place. In recent days the United Nations agency has moved closer and
closer to such a declaration.
of Tuesday officials had not yet announced a change from phase five. But Doctor
Fukuda said the public should understand what a pandemic means.
KEIJI FUKUDA: "By going to phase six, what this
would mean is that the spread of the virus is continued and that activity has
become established in at least two regions of the world. It does not mean that
the severity of the situation has increased or that people are getting
seriously sick at higher numbers or higher rates than they are right now."
Fukuda, an acting assistant director-general, said the W.H.O. has been working
with the member states to prepare for a pandemic. Scientists are working on vaccines
to protect against the new virus. Governments have been gathering supplies of
public health officials have also had to consider the risks if the public
overreacts to a pandemic declaration. Doctor Fukuda pointed out that hospitals
might quickly fill with people who are worried but not especially sick. Then
hospitals might not be able to care for other patients who really do need help.
last flu pandemic was in nineteen sixty-eight, caused by the so-called Hong
Kong flu. Scientists say the common name for the new disease, swine flu, is
misleading. The virus combines human, bird and pig viruses. But, as Doctor
Fukuda pointed out, eating meat from pigs has not been a danger.
And that's the VOA Special English
Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. For more health news, go to
Correction: The W.H.O.'s Keiji Fukuda at first told a press
briefing on Tuesday that there were 249 deaths from the new H1N1 virus.
However, he later corrected the number to 140.