U.S. health officials caution that declaration simply means virus is more widespread
THURSDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an influenza pandemic -- the first since 1968 -- because of the rapid spread of the H1N1 swine flu virus, according to health officials. But U.S. health officials caution that the severity of the virus has not changed; the declaration simply means the virus is more widespread.
The Associated Press reported that WHO officials held a teleconference June 11 with leading flu experts in order to make and issue the decision. H1N1 cases in Australia rose by more than 1,000 on June 8, which was speculated to be part of the reason for the decision to declare a pandemic.
The WHO has reported, as of June 11 at 14:00 GMT, that there are now 28,774 reported cases of swine flu worldwide, including 144 deaths. In the United States, 13,217 cases and 27 deaths were reported as of June 5. The large majority of flu infections and deaths have occurred in the United States and Mexico, the source of the outbreak.
Regarding the pandemic alert, "this does not mean there is any difference in the severity of the flu," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said in a press conference held this afternoon. "There has been no change in the virus." Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, added that "here in the United States, we have been responding as if it were a pandemic already."