- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

WHO expects flu surge

By Betsy Pisik


UNITED NATIONS — The head of the World Health Organization said Monday that swine flu will continue to spread, and she advised governments to undertake rigorous surveillance of the virus.

“We don’t know how long we have until we move to phase 6,” the top of the assessment scale for a global pandemic, said Margaret Chan, director-general of the Geneva-based WHO. “We are not there yet.”

Phase 6 means the virus is transmitted person-to-person in at least two separate geographical areas. The scale was created in 2005, after the spread of SARS and outbreaks of bird flu, which killed at least 220 people and decimated Asian poultry farms.

The swine flu virus caused the closure of a number of schools in the New York area, after pupils were sickened by the virus.

St. Francis Preparatory School, whose pupils accounted for more than 40 of 63 infections reported in New York state, reopened Monday with visits by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and scores of reporters.

As of Monday afternoon, the WHO has confirmed 1,003 cases of swine flu, Dr. Chan told the U.N. General Assembly via videolink from Geneva.

The WHO number is significantly lower than most estimates, as it only counts those cases analyzed in its own laboratories.

The global health agency has verified 286 cases in the United States, and 506 in Mexico, where the virus has killed 19.

The only U.S. fatality to date was a Mexican toddler who was visiting relatives in Texas.

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